The New York sports media was whipped into a frenzy when New York Mets 2B Daniel Murphy missed the beginning of the 2014 season on the Paternity Leave List. Although harshly criticized, Murphy proved that he is role model material.
The Mets’ second-baseman was at the White House on Monday to speak at the Working Families Summit. His appearance at the event brought the issue of paternity leave back into the spotlight. At the time Murphy’s decision was a polarizing one. One of his loudest critics was WFAN talk show host Boomer Esiason who gave us the infamous quote: “Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day.” Fellow WFAN dinosaur Mike Francesa took issue with the decision as well. But the second-baseman taught the baseball world an important lesson: There’s more to life than just your career. Murphy was willing to do what was right for his family above what was right for his career—even if it meant taking heat from others.
The type of strain that being a pro athlete away from home and focused on the team for more than half of the year puts on a family is often overlooked. Little League and movies teach us that “it’s just a game”, but that concept seems to get lost in the seven and eight figure salaries and the fanfare surrounding sports. The game you played for fun suddenly becomes a lucrative business venture where everything you do and say is analyzed under a microscope.
But Murphy being the one to remind everybody that there is life outside of baseball was all the more refreshing. Nobody can question his dedication and commitment to the team. Murphy played 161 out of 162 games last season and 156 games the year before that. It’s a little bit silly to criticize Murphy for missing a couple of games given his track record. His manager Terry Collins was the one who came to his defense and pointed out Murphy’s hard-nosed, play everyday attitude.
Although Murphy may not be the rock star level superstar that teammate David Wright is, he certainly is equally worthy of being considered a role model.