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Murphy visits Fan Cave to talk life after baseball

NEW YORK -- Dale Murphy still misses the feel of the hit, the crack of the baseball on the barrel of his modest 32-ounce, 34 1/2-inch bat, the explosiveness and the wonder of where it would go.

That's what it was about.

"You never get it out of your system," the Braves legend, now 56, said Monday during a visit to the MLB Fan Cave. "You wish you could still get back out there. The Braves invite me back to Spring Training nowadays and I love going down to Spring Training, it keeps you young. I'm very thankful to play baseball and you never get it out of your system, you always miss it."

This weekend, Murphy will be off to Los Angeles to watch the University of Utah's next football game, rooting for one of his eight children, Jake, the Utes' 6-foot-4, 252-pound sophomore tight end. The first thing you notice about Jake's dad is that he is still mountain-strong, maybe more an impressive physical specimen than any retired player who has walked through the Fan Cave's doors.

"I probably get more nervous than he does out there, watching your kids play. Jake's done a really great job, we're really proud of him," Murphy said. "This is their second year in the Pac-12, so they're learning that every week is some tough competition, UCLA this weekend. We'll be down there pulling for the Utes and Jake, No. 82. Just watching our kids, whatever they find to do in their lives, I just love to watch them grow and develop and finding their talents. We've had a lot of fun watching Jake."

Has No. 3 been lifting with No. 82?

"I've got a ways to go, but I appreciate that," Murphy says. "Now I've got grandkids to keep me young. That's the blessing of it that I'm very thankful for. You try to do something every day. Just try to fight off the years as they start to accumulate."

Two decades have accumulated since Murphy left the game, a seven-time All-Star and back-to-back MVP during a career as a dominant National League outfielder.

The funny thing is, many fans in Major League Baseball's younger generation are discovering him through social media ... and then realizing he also happened to be a great baseball player.

Murphy has nearly 33,000 followers at @DaleMurphy3, and that is just the start of his interest in technology. He has been an early adopter going way back to the "Trash 80s," as the old TRS-80 computers were known during his career. Before signing the Fan Cave autograph wall, he whipped out his iPhone so he could share pics of other signatures -- including Johnny Bench's, given that he used to idolize the Big Red Machine.

"I really enjoy it. A lot of people my age think things are too complicated to get involved with," Murphy said of technology. "There really is a learning curve and that's where my kids come in handy and teach me Twitter, iTunes, Instagram, those kind of things that are fantastic tools really to connect communities and families. I am interacting with my kids and my grandkids in a way that just wasn't possible a few years ago.

"I enjoy Twitter, it's like one big conversation. I think what people need to know, whether they're middle-aged, with this technology thing, you've just got to dive in. ... It's opened up a lot of different avenues for me. I can access more music now. I don't have to listen to classic rock every day."

Murphy was reminded on Friday that having a Twitter account also can be a lightning rod.

Among the din that followed an infield-fly rule call during the Cardinals-Braves Wild Card game at Turner Field, there was this tweet from Murphy: "Oh my... Not believing this.. Calls an infield fly when the ball is almost on the ground? Oh my.."

He spent much of the next 24 hours elaborating and clarifying.

"It's a little short sometimes to be able to explain yourself, but overall it's fun," Murphy said. "It's a great way to interact with fans. That's what I'm trying to do, have conversations. You really connect yourself with a great cross-section of people, not only fans of baseball, but people from all over the country and all over the world. I think it's good to have a good, civil discussion about a lot of things and I happen to talk about baseball a lot."

Now that he and Braves fans have had a few days to digest what happened, what does he think?

"It's an interesting way to start that first single-game Wild Card game," Murphy said. "The Braves will be and have been the first to admit they didn't play well -- left some guys in scoring position, quite a few guys, and made some errors. The Cardinals outplayed them. The infield fly was obviously controversial, and I knew as soon as the protest was filed that the judgment call wasn't going to be upheld. I understood that.

"It's just one of those things. It could have had an impact in a way we don't know. Most of the umpires get most of the calls right. That one was controversial; you'll probably see it both ways. I understand, after now we've had that long to look at it, how it could be judged that way, although it's just one of those weird things that happens in baseball."

He called the Wild Card "a great idea" but anticipates "a little tweaking on the one-game playoff. There's been a lot of talk about maybe trying to figure out how to get the one-game playoff to a best-out-of-three. There's a lot of buzz about the game. You want kids to watch the game, you want everybody to be interested. So overall, I think baseball has done a good job in getting the right amount of teams involved.

"We've got to be a little careful to where the regular season doesn't mean as much, if so many teams are going to make it, but I think we're at a really good point right now."