OC dedicates facility in honor of Yankees great Bobby Murcer
OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 23, 2011) – Oklahoma Christian University on Friday officially dedicated the new Bobby Murcer Indoor Training Facility, the latest step in the revival of the school’s baseball program. (Click here to watch a video recap of the dedication).
OC officials and members of Bobby Murcer’s family gathered to celebrate the opening of the $503,000 facility, named after the Oklahoma City native and New York Yankees player and broadcaster, who died in July 2008 at age 62 after battling brain cancer.
Murcer, a five-time All-Star, was one of Oklahoma’s most famous baseball players. He starred at Southeast High School in Oklahoma City before being drafted by the Yankees. He played briefly for the team during the 1965 and 1966 seasons before spending two years in the U.S. Army.
He resumed his Major League Baseball career in 1969 and followed another famous Oklahoman, Mickey Mantle, as the Yankees’ starting center fielder. He played for the Yankees through 1974, then spent two years with the San Francisco Giants and 2½ years with the Chicago Cubs before returning to the Yankees midway through the 1979 season. He played with the Yankees until retiring in June 1983. Throughout his career, he was considered one of the Yankees’ most popular players.
He spent more than two decades as a broadcaster for the Yankees, winning three Emmy Awards for live sports coverage. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2004.
Although he never attended Oklahoma Christian, Murcer had strong ties with many people associated with the university, as he and his wife, Kay, attended Memorial Road Church of Christ, which is located immediately southwest of the OC campus.
OC dropped baseball after the 2001 season and didn’t again field a team in the sport until 2008. As OC prepared to re-launch the baseball program, university leaders asked Murcer to support their efforts, and he agreed to do so. The university scheduled a gala event involving Murcer early that year, which eventually had to be canceled because of his deteriorating health.
Kent Allen, OC’s vice president for alumni relations, was a former minister at the Memorial Road church and a friend of the Murcer family. He wanted to honor Murcer’s memory in a tangible way on the OC campus, and that idea led to the naming of the new baseball indoor practice facility in honor of Murcer.
“We felt like we needed to give honor to whom honor is due,” Allen said. “In the end, he had developed a keen interest in wanting to bring OC baseball back, even better than before. Here’s a man who drove by the university every day, had seen the importance of bringing baseball back to the university, had developed good relationships with so many people on the campus, had lent his name to a fundraising activity and was one of Oklahoma’s favorite sons. It just made sense to name the facility after him.”
Kay Murcer, who lives in Edmond, supported the decision to name the facility after her husband.
“I feel like my roots are here in Oklahoma and I will keep my heels dug in in this area,” she said. “I hope one day, maybe one of our grandkids will attend Oklahoma Christian. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor Bobby.”
Chuck White, OC’s baseball coach, said the university is glad to be able to honor Murcer’s memory, because of what Murcer stood for.
“It’s how he handled himself and how he treated other people,” White said. “He was always very gracious, very humble and very engaging. You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who has a bad word to say about him because he always treated everybody so well. I think that is what drew people to him. He was a very humble individual who never elevated his position because of his profession.”
The Bobby Murcer Indoor Training Facility is located on the northwest corner of the Oklahoma Christian campus, next to Dobson Field, where the Eagles’ baseball team plays its home games. The 12,800-square-foot facility includes 8,000 square feet of workout space, including batting cages. The facility also includes a clubhouse with showers, an athletic training area, a weight training area and laundry facilities.
The lobby of the facility includes photos and memorabilia from Murcer’s playing and broadcasting careers, special wallpaper that depicts various scenes from OC’s baseball history and plaques honoring the 10 Oklahoma Christian baseball players who have received NAIA All-America honors through the years.
Two seats from old Yankee Stadium – donated by the Yankees – are displayed in the lobby.
Eighty-seven donors contributed to the project. They are recognized on a wall in the lobby.
Oklahoma Christian, named a “Best Western College” by The Princeton Review, and “America’s Best University – Masters” by U.S. News & World Report, is a private, four-year comprehensive university. OC offers degree programs in more than 60 fields of study in three colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Biblical Studies and the College of Professional Studies. The university also offers two graduate degree programs in Biblical studies, a master’s of science in engineering as well as one- and two-year master’s of business administration programs. In addition to its Oklahoma City campus, OC has study abroad opportunities in Vienna, Austria, Honduras, and throughout the western Pacific. For more information about Oklahoma Christian, log on to www.oc.edu.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT THE BOBBY MURCER INDOOR TRAINING FACILITY:
“On behalf of the entire New York Yankees organization, we are thrilled that Bobby Murcer and his family have been bestowed this great honor. This fitting tribute is a perfect example of Bobby’s everlasting spirit and zest for life, and serves as a testament to his deep sense of community. Bobby continues to make the New York Yankees proud.” – Hal Steinbrenner, New York Yankees Managing General Partner.
“This is a fitting tribute to Bobby. He was a special person, and his spirit remains with so many who had the great fortune of calling him ‘friend.’ Having his name adorn this facility signifies the role Bobby played in so many lives. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate and meaningful tribute to a man who continues to mean so much to so many.” – Joe Girardi, New York Yankees Manager.
“Growing up in upstate New York, my childhood hero and role model was New York Yankee Bobby Murcer. He was like a superhero to me and I wanted to be like him. It was a joy later in life to become a close friend of Bobby and Kay. How fitting that this training facility – dedicated to student-athletes at Oklahoma Christian University – be named in memory of my dear friend Bobby Murcer.” – Col. Doug Wheelock, NASA Astronaut.
“Bobby Murcer was not only a great baseball player, he was an excellent Christian example for his family and friends and the millions of people who followed the Yankees. We are proud to call him friend and that this facility will bear his name.” – Oklahoma Christian President Mike O’Neal.
“The kids and I feel very blessed that this is happening. I think it’s going to be fantastic. I can’t think of a better way to honor Bobby than by having his name on a baseball facility. Bobby had been eager to help them do something with OC’s baseball program.” – Kay Murcer, wife of Bobby Murcer.
“He was a great family man, a good father, a great professional and a good husband. Bobby kind of epitomizes what we try to accomplish with our players. He would be a great role model. He was a strong, professional, Christian example. We’re honored to have his name on this facility.” – Oklahoma Christian baseball coach Chuck White.