Yanks’ Murcer honored by Oklahoma Christian

Before he passed away, former New York Yankees great Bobby

Murcer gave his advice and some inspiration to Oklahoma Christian

on how it could revive its dormant baseball program.

The school paid him back Friday by naming a new indoor practice

facility in his honor. It includes memorabilia from his careers as

an All-Star outfielder and an Emmy-winning broadcaster.

”We had been through probably the roughest storm of our lives

with his cancer journey and … honestly to me it’s sort of like

the rainbow at the end of the storm,” Murcer’s widow, Kay, said at

a ribbon-cutting ceremony. ”That’s how I’m going to always think

of this.”

Murcer didn’t attend Oklahoma Christian but he went to church

just off campus and within walking distance, just around a bend in

the street, from where the facility was built. He also was an

adviser in restarting the NAIA school’s baseball program in 2008,

after it had been dropped seven years earlier.

Murcer had earlier been involved in a similar effort at Abilene

Christian.

”He helped us kind of form a vision of where we wanted to go,

because he had been involved in such things before, and my only

regret is that he didn’t get to have a bigger part in it,”

baseball coach Chuck White said. ”I would have loved to have

shared this day with him, because I know he would have really

enjoyed this.”

Murcer was a five-time All-Star who played for the Yankees,

Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants. He won three Emmys as a

broadcaster for the Yankees.

Murcer died of brain cancer in 2008.

The lobby of the new Bobby Murcer Indoor Practice Facility

features memorabilia from Murcer’s career, including a cap, glove,

bat and his No. 1 Yankees jersey. There are also two seats from the

old Yankee Stadium and dozens of pictures, including one with

Murcer standing between former teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger

Maris.

”He never would have expected this ever,” Kay Murcer said.

”He always wanted to see the baseball program sort of get

rejuvenated and brought back. … This would have been just the

best day for him, too”

Murcer said she would frequently swing by after church to check

on the progress of the facility, snapping pictures on her iPhone to

send to family, friends and supporters of the project as it grew

from a patch of dirt to a frame to a completed building.

When she popped in on a 100-plus degree day this summer, she

found White working inside the yet-to-be air-conditioned building.

A former player for the Eagles in the 1970s, he personally built

the wooden lockers and did much of the handiwork in the

12,800-square-foot facility.

There’s enough room for three batting cages, plus open workout

space, a clubhouse, locker room, laundry area and coaches

offices.

”I knew he was the baseball coach up here but I had no idea he

was like all of the `Extreme Makeover’ team rolled into one, up

here by himself,” Murcer said. ”He traded in his baseball cap for

a hard hat.”

White said he had a connection with Murcer from both growing up

in south Oklahoma City, and he frequently uses Murcer as a role

model for his players.

”He’s a strong influence and so I keep that there in front of

them and I talk about Bobby all the time,” White said. ”Even

though they’ve never met him, I try to help them see who he

was.”

Murcer’s son, Todd, was among the first to take swings in the

new batting cages, along with Murcer’s grandchildren. Eagles

players, who lent a hand in building the practice site, also

attended.

”These are young men, many of whom desire to be that next Bobby

Murcer and who will be inspired by his name and by the story that

goes with this place,” university president Mike O’Neal said.