Faces In the Crowd: Ben Murphy

July 11, 2019

By Aaron Michell

For readers of the Marion Press, Ben Murphy is a well-known name.
He’s our sportswriter. He’s the guy who covers Marion, McBain, NMC, and Evart sports on a weekly basis throughout the seasons.
But who is Ben Murphy? That’s what we wanted to find out.
Outside of being a great sportswriter, Ben Murphy is also a husband, a father, a former baseball coach, and a part-time merchant marine.
He’s the author of Ghost of Charity Island, and the upcoming sequel, Return to Charity Island. He’s a writer, a sports fan, and a family man.
Born and raised in Tawas City, Ben took up sports journalism while attending Delta College some 15 years ago. He’s stuck with it ever since, writing for a number of outlets, including our own Marion Press.
We were fortunate to catch up with Ben recently, where he filled us in on exactly who he is, and what he’s all about. We learned that he’s more than just a sportswriter – and he’s certainly more than just another face in the crowd.

In addition to writing, Ben works part-time as a merchant marine.

Marion Press: Where did you grow up?
Ben: I was born and raised in Tawas City, Michigan – it’s east of West Branch. Graduated from Tawas Area Schools class of ’03. It’s a real nice tourist town. I feel fortunate that I grew up there, and that I still live there – it’s kind of a town that people like to vacation in, but here I am living in it. I moved down to Bay City and Midland during my college years, but I moved back up here the first chance I got, pretty much.

MP: What kept you busy growing up in Tawas?
Ben: I played every sport I possibly could growing up. I played soccer, but I wasn’t that good at it – but I loved baseball. I played baseball for four years. It was my favorite, and probably the only one that I was decent at.

MP: After high school, where’d you go from there? How’d you get your start as a writer?
Ben: I went to Delta College, and that’s where I actually discovered journalism. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do yet, but I wrote an English paper on a Tawas football game; a playoff game that went into four overtimes, and I kind of detailed that. And my professor read it and at the end, one of her notes was that, ‘You should be a sports journalist.’ And I read that, and thought: Ah, that’s not a bad idea!
So I started working at the paper at Delta, and I got experience there – it was called the Delta Collegiate. And I’ve went with it ever since.

MP: So it wasn’t like you knew from an early age that you wanted to be a writer?
Ben: I guess I didn’t know until I got into college. I knew that I liked to write, and that I was fairly good at it, but I never thought to make a living at it until I got into college.

MP: And since then you’ve gone on to write for a number of publications, including the Marion Press.
Ben: I think it was 2008, when I started writing for the Iosco News. So I lived in Bay City and worked in Tawas – made that drive every day for a few years. There’s a total of six papers that I write for now; a couple of them are sister papers, like the Clare County Review and the Marion Press. The Iosco County News Herald and their sister paper, the Oscoda Press. The Alcona County Review, and the Weekly Choice out of Gaylord.

MP: And specifically, you’re a sportswriter. Is it fair to say that you’re a sports fan as well?
Ben: Yeah, I guess that’s safe to say. Pretty much any type of sport I enjoy. I love baseball so much I coached it for seven years. I’m proud that we had moderate success too; we won a conference championship. I was varsity head coach at Hale High School for seven years, and we won a league title in 2017. Last year we went 14-11 and I stepped down.
It got to be too much with my professional obligations, and I have a daughter now. I sure missed it, but it was the right choice.

MP: Writing for all these sports teams, you probably have a good pulse on the northern Michigan high school sports scene.
Ben: I like to know as much as I can about the teams that I cover. I enjoy having sports conversations with people. I just talked with a player’s grandparent yesterday about who are going to be the good football teams this fall. That’s part of the job that I like; just getting to know these teams pretty well and having the pulse on the sports teams in this area.

MP: What’s your favorite sport to cover? And your favorite to play or watch?
Ben: To cover is football. To play or watch: either football, or good baseball or softball. When teams make a run in the postseason in baseball or softball, when they get to regionals there’s tension in every play. It’s good stuff.
[In football] I think there’s a story to be told every game. It’s easy to find a good angle, and there’s not as many plays as in a basketball game, or a baseball game, so it’s easier to condense into a readable story.
And I will say a sport that has grown on me over the years is volleyball. When I first started going to those, I was like, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ I took the time to learn the rules and the strategies involved, and it’s become a sport that I look forward to watching now, and covering. That’s what I like about journalism. The stuff that I’m interested in, I get to write about and learn about myself.

The Murphy Family – Gina, Claire and Ben.

MP: And you’ve recently published a book, tell us about that.
Ben: The one that’s out is called the Ghost of Charity Island. It’s kind of like Goosebumps, or Michigan Chillers, but based kind of where I live. I’ve always wanted to write a book, and so I’m the type of person if I want to do it, I do it. So I somehow found the time to write it, and found a publisher that liked it. It’s been fun; it’s not really something I’m making money at, but I like doing it. And the sequel should be out hopefully in time for Christmas. The sequel is called Return to Charity Island. [Books are available at amazon.com]

MP: What is your favorite part of the job?
Ben: I like when teams make a good playoff run, regardless of what sport it. I like waking up in the morning and knowing I’m going to cover this team in the football playoffs, or this basketball team in the regional finals. I don’t even look at it as work on those days, because it’s something I probably want to go to anyways. I just enjoy watching teams make nice runs like that.

MP: What’s the hardest part of the job?
Ben: It’s hard…you get parents who come up and complain to you about their kids playing time; or they don’t like this coach or that coach. I’m just kind of like, well, I have nothing to do with that – I don’t know what you want me to say? I just tell them, well [the coach] sends me their stats every week, so they’re okay by me.

MP: And you recently got married.
Ben: Got married February 2nd, down in New Orleans, on a cruise ship. That was a great time. We were happy to have our close family down there with us, and we enjoyed a cruise down to Mexico. We’re off to a good start with married life. My wife’s name is Gina, and our daughter Claire, she’ll be three in August.

MP: What does the Murphy family enjoy doing in their free time?
Ben: We just bought a camper, so we like to camp. My wife likes to golf and stay busy like that, like I do. We always seem to find something fun to do. We’re often visiting family in one part of the state or the other every other weekend, it seems like.

MP: What do you enjoy most about living in northern Michigan?
Ben: You can choose your own adventure, so to speak. If you want to spend a day on the lake, you can go to the lake; if you wanna go fishing in the Au Sable River you can go there; if you want to go for a walk in the woods, there’s plenty of that too. I’ll take this lifestyle over the big city any day.
One of my wife’s and I’s favorite places to go is this random pond in the middle of the national forest that nobody knows about really. We just go there and let the dog run wild, and just enjoy nature by ourselves. And our daughter likes it now too.

MP: 3’s a fun age. What does your daughter like to do?
Ben: She likes watching me play softball, so she’s starting to pick up a whiffle bat and ball. She’s kind of just discovering sports, but she’s really into any Disney movie – especially the Aristocats.

MP: Well that’s a classic. What has been the best advice you’ve ever been given? Or maybe advice that’s helped you along the way?
Ben: If there’s something that makes you happy, or something that you’d think you want to pursue… I don’t want to encourage people to get caught up in thinking that they have to go to college and find the job that pays the most. I just encourage people to find what makes you happy, and do that. There’s no sense in chasing money. You can’t get happier than happy – that’s what I like to say.

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