Dale Murphy gripped an old Louisville Slugger and flashed a smile before signing it for a life-long fan.
“Now it’s worth $15,” Murphy joked as he handed it back to Joe Rutledge.
Murphy met fans and signed autographs Saturday at Dyer Kia in Evans. The line to get an autograph from the former Atlanta Braves star curved through the building as many fans wore team apparel with Murphy’s name on the back.
“He’s the reason I watched the Braves,” Rutledge said. “I always watched him back when he played.”
Murphy, 58, played parts of 15 seasons with the Braves from 1976-1990. He won the National League Most Valuable Player award in consecutive years between 1982-83. He was a seven-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner and four-time Silver Slugger winner.
More than just numbers, Murphy has long been a fan favorite for his friendly personality and high energy on the field. As each person approached the table to get an autograph, Murphy met them with a smile.
“I don’t live in Georgia anymore, but I get back here quite a bit. Whenever I come back, it just feels like home,” Murphy said. “I’m usually in Atlanta, so to be able to be here in the Augusta area is a lot of fun. I see a lot of Braves fans here and it’s a comfortable feeling.”
As the 2014 Braves entered Saturday a half-game out in the National League wild card race, Murphy said experience should help during a crucial September schedule.
“Obviously, they’ve been through good Septembers and not so good Septembers, so they know what it’s going to take,” he said. “It’s been an up and down year for them, but if they finish strong in September, anything can happen.”
An inconsistent lineup has drained the Braves at times, but Atlanta isn’t alone in struggling to score runs.
Major League Baseball hitters are averaging 4.1 runs per game this season. Murphy was 25 years old the last time runs were at such a premium in 1981.
The 2014 MLB batting average of .252 is the lowest since 1972.
While hitting slowly picked back up during Murphy’s career from the offensive drought of the 1970s, Murphy said he sees major differences in the game now and then.
“Pitching overall is better,” he said. “Now, most staffs are filled with guys with good stuff. They have more sixth-inning and seventh-inning specialists, so that makes it tougher on hitters. You’re now facing three or four pitchers a night. That’s really tough.”