Four sports and nevermore

Spring baseball means Port’s Murphy is the last of his kind in high school

MICHAEL MURPHY WAS in an elite group ­— four-sport high school athletes — that has gone extinct by baseball moving to spring. Murphy posed at the anchor at Port Washington High School’s Al Urness football field with equipment from each sport: a football helmet, baseball glove, wrestling warm-up jacket and track and field shoes. The arms of his letterman jacket (right) are decorated with a patch for each sport and chevrons for each year of participation after receiving his letter. He has a couple of chevrons to sew on that won’t fit on either arm. Left photo by Sam Arendt, right photos by Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press staff

Michael Murphy is among a select group that is now extinct.
With the WIAA scheduling all high school baseball in spring next year, the days of the four-sport athlete are gone.
There were already essentially an endangered species, given the time commitment and hard work it takes, along with many teens choosing to specialize in one sport.
Murphy, a 2018 graduate of Port Washington High School, was one of those elite four-sport athletes.
Murphy played football, wrestled, participated in track and played baseball.
“I like staying busy,” he said.
That he was. He usually got a week to a week and a half break in between seasons.
Playing 16 sports seasons wasn’t necessarily something Murphy planned to do coming into high school.
“After freshman year, I thought I would play in all of them after having so much fun,” he said.
He admits it wasn’t easy. The family pushed dinners back to 6, 7 or 8 p.m., depending on when Murphy got home.
Time management actually became simple. He would go home, eat, do his homework and go to bed.
“I actually liked the schedule. Every day I knew what I was doing and for how long,” he said.
Beyond that, he liked making new friends and, as an upperclassmen, working with his teams’ younger athletes.
Murphy didn’t just participate, however. He excelled. Of his 16 seasons, 14 were spent on varsity teams.
In football, he was chosen to the North Shore Conference second team at inside linebacker, leading the team in tackles and being chosen as the Pirates’ defensive most valuable player.
He was happy to stay on one side of the ball.
“I only like defense because I like hitting people instead of getting hit,” he said.
In track, Murphy filled in on relays and other events and took third in pole vault at the NSC outdoor meet, clearing 12 feet. He said he would have needed to specialize to reach the top vaulters who cleared 14 feet.
Just attempting the event was harrowing as a freshman. At first, “I was just sliding down the pole,” he said.
“After you do it a couple of times, you realize the pad will be there. It’s just exhilarating like flying up in the air.”
In baseball, Murphy earned NSC honorable mention at catcher. He chose the position back when his U11 team didn’t have one.
“I thought this could be my spot,” he said.
While no practices were easy, Murphy said wrestling provided the hardest days and longest practices that reached three hours.
“Our assistant coach would run us into the ground,” he said.
One sport actually helped ready Murphy for the next. In football, he weighed about 170 pounds and only had to drop 10 for wrestling, “which is nothing,” he said. Wrestling got him in great shape for track, which then helped him run the bases faster in baseball.
Murphy said he considered dropping certain sports, but then he thought, “If you quit now, you’ll never truly know what you could have gotten,” he said.
His parents were supportive. Athletics kept Murphy busy, in shape and “they knew I wasn’t going to be getting into any trouble,” he said.
They came to as many games as they could, cheering on their youngest of two sons.
Going to and from school, practices and games was made easier by Murphy acquiring reliable transportation, a “hand-me-down” 2006 Toyota Camry from his brother — “not a beater.”
It was even the right color for Port.
“It was green so it was perfect,” Murphy said.
Murphy also participated in student council, DECA and Spanish Club.
He said he did miss the tailgate party and cheering in the student section during football season but added “the sideline is the best spot on the field.”
In summer, Murphy worked as a custodian at Port High from 7 a.m. to noon, and then would go to baseball. Once the season ended, he could work full days.
This fall, Murphy will attend the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to major in business marketing. He may play club baseball or basketball to stay in shape. Life already feels different.
“It’s already odd not going to these first couple of football things,” he said.
For students looking to play multiple sports in high school, he has some advice.
“I would recommend trying them out freshman year just to see what you like,” he said.
“If you have the drive and willingness to go out there the entire year, it’s the best experience.”



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login