First and Foremost, Murphy Family Is Full of Fans

  • The Murphy family, of Wilder, perhaps the Upper Valley Nighthawks’ most ardent fans (from left): Mom Marlene, holding their 8-year-old chihuahua, Miss Kitty; father Jim; son Daniel; and grandmother Zada. Valley News — Tris Wykes

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/8/2018 12:10:37 AM
Modified: 7/8/2018 12:10:39 AM

White River Junction — Jim Murphy and his family are about as close to diehard fans of the Upper Valley Nighthawks as you can get.

The family of four — Jim, Marlene, Daniel and Zada, plus a tiny 8-year-old Chihuahua named Miss Kitty, all of Wilder — have had season tickets to the Nighthawks since before the team played its first game in 2016. They’re sports fans first and foremost, taking in all kinds of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Vermont Lake Monsters games during the fall, winter and spring months.

But their summers are for the Nighthawks. Jim, Daniel and Zada usually are decked out in navy blue Upper Valley hats, Marlene in a gray Nighthawks T-shirt. They are easy to spot at Upper Valley home games at the Maxfield Sports Complex, where they settle into a familiar spot behind home plate. It’s rare that they ever miss a game.

“We’re usually the first ones to have our chairs set up,” Jim Murphy said last week. “Generally, the first people back there. That’s us. We’ve got to have our spot.”

Murphy, 55, is a Hartford High graduate and a self-proclaimed sports fan. He has worked at Super Shoes in Lebanon for the last 30 years, and has become well-acquainted with the emotional ups and downs of a typical Nighthawks season.

That begins in the fall, around the time when Upper Valley general manager Noah Crane releases his initial roster of players. That list is ever-changing, of course, determined by injuries and the availability of incoming collegiate athletes. Murphy said he usually waits until the spring before getting himself acclimated with roster.

“Personally, I’m a little bit more avid than most,” Jim Murphy said. “I actually will start following who Noah has on the roster, how they’re doing throughout college and stuff. I usually already have an idea of, ‘Oh, this guy is going to be good.’ I have a pretty good idea of what’s coming.”

Murphy said he usually will print out rosters for the rest of the family and keep them updated on the progress of Upper Valley’s incoming athletes. Daniel Murphy — who competes in shot put and track and field for the Upper Valley Hawks Special Olympics team — is just as avid as his father is and has offered to volunteer for Upper Valley in the future.

“We got married 30 years ago,” Marlene Murphy said of her husband’s fandom. “It’s rubbed off on me.”

Before the Nighthawks, the Murphys’ sports fandom went into something of a hibernation during the summer months, with the usual minor league baseball or Red Sox game somewhere in between. Creating a NECBL team right around the corner gave Murphy and his family a chance to fill that void.

“We love sports,” Jim Murphy said. “We follow Hartford High athletics. This was just a natural progression. It’s not minor league, but it’s not high school. It’s a good, quality baseball game.”

The fact that it represents their home makes being a Nighthawks fan more meaningful.

“I just want this to be successful and not lose the interest and lose the team because there’s nothing like this between here and Keene and Montpelier,” Jim Murphy said. “You would hope it is successful and continues to build and gather interest. It is good, quality ball.”

This season, the Murphys have made a point to start making road trips with the team. They’ve visited Keene’s Alumni Field and Vermont’s Recreation Park so far, Miss Kitty following behind wherever they go.

“Lots of Nighthawks players want to take a picture with Miss Kitty,” Marlene Murphy said. “I usually take her for a walk around the diamond. A couple Keene Swamp Bat players came up and wanted a picture with her.”

For the Murphys, watching the Nighthawks win an NECBL championship would be the ultimate dream come true.

Whatever a Nighthawks championship celebration might entail — a parade down Route 12A in West Lebanon, or perhaps a party of duck boats in Hanover — the Murphys are happy to root for a team that represents their home.

“It would be awesome,” Jim Murphy said. “In the third year, that would be unheard of, but in the near future that would be tremendous for the area.”

Added Marlene Murphy: “(A championship) would be out of this world.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at or 603-727-3306.

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