Spring brings back memories

With Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective clubs for spring training, I'm reminded why I love spring so much. Besides the fact I hate winter so much, our national pastime, baseball, is just around the corner.

Undefeated 1991 Mets
Members of the 1991 Mets were, front row (left to right): Lisa Odermann, Katrina Cirilli, Justin Johnson, Phil Maciejeski, Matt Flynn, Ryan Murray. Second row: Joe Samuelson, Scott Hawley, Chris Leighton, Heather Brink, Darren Milliken. Third row: John Lund, Joey Campbell, Chip Flynn, Will Rogers, Tyrell Willberg, Andrew Nelson. Back row (coaches): Don Leighton, Len "Pickles" Campbell, Lenny Campbell, Pat Flynn, Stu Johnson. (Submitted photo)

With Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective clubs for spring training, I'm reminded why I love spring so much. Besides the fact I hate winter so much, our national pastime, baseball, is just around the corner.

Each year I'm reminded of the kids I had the pleasure of coaching. My first year of coaching was with Mike Lucci, Pete Stroozas and Larry Kappes. What great times we had practicing and playing behind old Pattison School. When my son, Chris, was old enough to play, I was asked to help some of the greatest coaches Superior has ever had. Lenny Campbell asked me to help him and the other coaches with the 10-year-old Mets. Being a Cardinal fan, it was tough to coach the Mets, but Lenny convinced me that he would rather have me help than sit on the hood of my car watching his every move. Pat Flynn, Stu Johnson and Lenny's dad, Len "Pickles" Campbell, rounded out this all-star staff.

As everyone who has ever coached knows, it's about the kids learning and having fun playing the greatest game ever invented, baseball. What I remember most about the Mets is the great kids we had, the three girls who played vital roles during the undefeated season, and the fun we all had.

At such a young age, it's tough to find a good catcher who really wants to put on the equipment, run back to the screen after all of the wild pitches, and get all dirty and sweaty. Our catcher that season was Ryan Murray. He was our catcher because he wanted to get dirty and sweaty.

The driving force behind the young Murray wanting to catch is summed up best by him when he says, "I was the catcher because I thought it was the position for me. I always wanted to be in the middle of the action and in on every play."


His mother, Nancy, remembers him on the first day of kindergarten at Lincoln School. "Ryan was always very confident in himself and his ideas. The first day of kindergarten he thought he should walk home alone even though he lived almost a mile away and didn't know the way."

Who says you can't judge a book by its cover.

Being a confident young man with a drive that most are unable to perceive has served him well during his 27 years. As a kid, Ryan was in the YMCA swimming program, played youth baseball and basketball and was on the golf and swimming teams at SHS. Mock trial, Harvard model UN, National Honor Society, and a Nelson Scholarship were all earned by his hard work and drive during high school. A highlight during his senior year was the Mock Trial. His team made it to the state finals against Rhinelander. The Hodags won a close match as the Spartans finished second in a case presented before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

After graduation from Superior High School in 2000, he attended Macalester College and was on the golf team for two years. During his sophomore year, he competed in Mock Trial in college and was awarded All-American National Attorneys recognition which signifies the top 10 in the country.

Ryan now lives in Brookfield, Wis., with his wife of four years, Danielle Gondik of Superior. They met when they were 12 on the set of the play Lil Abner. It took awhile for them to get together as they started dating as seniors. Good things come to those who wait.

Ryan is involved in the political arena serving as campaign manager for Terrence Wall, who is trying to win the senate seat occupied by Sen. Russ Feingold. He has worked for two summers in Governor Scott McCallum's office in Madison. He worked on Mayor Ross's first campaign for mayor for the City of Superior. He also worked on President Bush's re-election campaign and served as field representative for northern Wisconsin. During the last five years, he has worked the State Senate, most recently as Chief of Staff for State Senator, Randy Hopper.

Murray is unsure when the political bug bit him, but his father, Mike, thinks he knows. "Back in 1992 when Bill Clinton appeared on the Arsenio Hall show and played the sax and wore the sunglasses, Ryan thought that was really cool. Ryan played the sax at Lincoln School."

Perhaps Ryan's greatest claim to fame is working for a couple of summers at SAHA where he got to drive the Zamboni. How many people can claim that? I bet that Mr. Murray has used that experience to "break the ice" during job interviews. (I just had to get that in the story.)


Ryan will be back in Superior on March 9, when he will co-host a fundraiser for Terrence Wall at the Old Post Office. It will be really great to see him. We'll talk politics and baseball. I will ask him who the best coach he ever had was, and he will say Lenny Campbell. He will be right.

Ryan has become a success due to hard work and determination. Why do you think the 1991 Mets were 20-0 with him as our catcher? Coach Campbell, you knew a leader when you saw one.

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