By Stephen Nelson
EUGENE, Ore.– Eugene Emeralds manager Pat Murphy spent more than 20 years in college baseball. There’s a player in Eugene that remind him of some of his former collegians.
“He’s a little bit of Josh Spence; a little bit of Mike Leake,” Murphy said, “He’s got a little coolness to him like Brett Wallace.”
The player Murphy is talking about is in the Ems’ dugout, but not on the Ems’ roster. It’s Murphy’s 11-year-old son, Kai.
“It’s really a privilege to be out here with the [team] and play baseball,” Kai said.
There aren’t many, or hardly any 11-year-olds who get to live the life of a pro ball-player. These experiences go hand-in-hand with Kai’s dreams.
“You can imagine the crowds chanting your name when you come up to bat in the World Series or something,” he said.
Kai’s goal, or course, is to play professionally. But before that? College. Would he play for his father’s good friend, Pat Casey at Oregon State? Or what about Oregon?
“Oregon’s probably top of the list right now. I mean, I’ve seen the football stadium, [PK Park], the campus. It’s so nice,” Kai said.
“I’ll tell you something, those would be two great guys to have [Kai] play for,” Pat said, “But I know one thing: he isn’t going to play for me if I’m back in the college game.”
This father-son relationship has common elements: the good-natured ribbing and the fun trash talk. But the special setting in which they show their love is anything but common.
On Father’s Day, most kids use cares or phone calls; Kai used PK Park’s jumbotron.
“I didn’t expect anything from Kai,” said Murphy, “somebody will usually remind him it’s Father’s Day, and he’ll make a card or something. Those are all special, believe me. But when I looked up on that board, and I saw him and how clearly he spoke, it felt like he was speaking to me. And to this day, it still gets you choked up because that’s my little boy.”