by June Kraus
Monsters and dreams. Quite often the two seem to go hand in hand. They fascinated us or terrified us, maybe both, when we were children. Some monsters appeared in dreams, some on the playground, some in books and of course always at Halloween. As for dreams, there are those that occur while sleeping, the other being one’s vision of the future, a desire, or of things to come.
Tom Murphy, a 2010 graduate of Paul V. Moore High School is working all the angles of dreams and monsters, and in some cases combining the two. Murphy, now attending college at University of Buffalo on an athletic scholarship, managed to slay a monster. Not a monster in his dream, but slay the monster while living his dream.
The athletic scholarship that brought Murphy to Buffalo was for baseball. He started playing ball as a small boy, not only at home with his family in West Monroe, but also got his roots with the North Shore Little Leauge program, then playing Fall Ball with CSRBI. It was while playing T-ball for the North Shore, that coach Dean Gass saw potential in the lad. Murphy was taken out of T-ball and was put into the Minors in spite of his young age. It’s unclear what exact moment Murphy’s dream of becoming a professional baseball player was born, regardless, he has been following that dream for most of his life.
Murphy’s impressive high school career at Paul V. Moore drew the attention of college coaches. While playing for the Square, he batted .510 with eight home runs, eight doubles and three triples his senior year. He served as captain for three seasons, and was selected to First-Team All-CNY and CNY Athlete of the Year as a senior, was named First-Team All-League as a sophomore, junior and senior among other accolades. He was recruited by several colleges and chose University of Buffalo, feeling it not only a good fit, but receiving a full scholarship was the icing on the cake. When not at bat, Murphy’s field position is catcher.
College can be a rough transition for many students the freshman year, but Murphy fell right into place, perhaps because of his comfort on the baseball diamond. As a freshman playing for the University of Buffalo Bulls, he started in 36 games also making appearances in six other games. He was second on the team in putouts, with 203, put together the team’s third-longest hitting streak of nine games, and also had 12 multiple hit games in total. University of Buffalo (UB)s web site, continued to post, “Murphy is tops in batting average, home runs, runs batted in and multiple offensive categories.”
Imagine being 20 years old with that as a resume under your belt, then adding even more as a college sophomore. In February of 2011 while playing for UB in North Carolina, Murphy beat the UB school record with three consecutive home runs in one game against Central Carolina University. His successful season netted him the MAC East Player of the Week recognition, not once but twice with the Mid-American Conference, (MAC) and later Player of the Year for the conference, the first Bull to ever earn the award. He also won the league’s batting title and his name appears in numerous categories in the Buffalo record books. Murphy was the first UB player named to the NCAA Mideast Region First Team. He was invited to join the USA national collegiate team after leading his New England Collegiate Baseball All-Star squad to victory. This invitation was another first that Murphy brought to the UB stats- he was the first player in Buffalo baseball history to earn a national team spot.
While playing New England Collegiate Baseball, Murphy had the opportunity to realize several of his childhood dreams. The first being to play at Fenway Park, (located in Boston, Mass.) home of the Boston Red Sox. That in itself was exciting.
But to slay a monster, too?
Murphy did what so many ball players only dream of. He hit one over the Green Monster, in essence “to slay the monster”. For those that are not “in the know”, the Green Monster is considered famous. It is the nickname for the left field wall at Fenway, that measures 36 feet, two inches and is only about 310 feet from home plate. Among current Major League Baseball fields, the wall is the highest. The Green Monster is felt to be notorious for preventing home runs on many line drives. And there was this lad from a little town called West Monroe living the dream of so many. Not only was he named Most Valuable Player during this All-Star Game, Murphy’s solo home run over the Green Monster broke a scoreless tie helping lead his team to an upset victory over the United States Collegiate National team (Team USA). It got the attention of those Team USA coaches (who he was playing against with his squad the Holyoke Blue Sox), as the hit estimated at 450 feet, cleared the wall. It was the next day after his team beat Team USA, that the call would come to Murphy’s coach to ask Tom to play with Team USA. Murphy signed to play for Team USA in a five game series against Team Japan. The series saw Team USA win 3, lose 1 and tie the other thus winning the series.
How does it feel to hit one over that famous Green Monster?
According to Murphy, “the pitch before would have been, but was foul. Next pitch- over she goes. My dad and I had joked about it beforehand. He had said to make sure you hit one over the Monster. It was pretty surreal. I just started running, saw the umpire give the signal then trotted around the bases floating on a cloud.”
Murphy has also worked out with the Major League teams- the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, and Philadelphia Phillies. He said, “you see college guys work hard, but these guys are on a different level for sure.” He said his exposure from Team USA brought interest and the Major League coaches want to see your “tools” before the draft. These include your speed and throwing speed. When asked if he had a particular team he’d like to play for, Murphy said, “I’d like the Yankees, but any kid’s dream is to get drafted by any Major League team.”
As of the end of August, Murphy was named America’s Top Prospect out of the New England Collegiate Baseball League by Baseball America. This followed another honor of being named to the 1st Team All-American for Summer Collegiate League. His achievements are a result of following, then living his dreams.
With such a rigorous baseball schedule, you have to wonder about everything else. This is a 20-year old.
So what about college?
Murphy says his major is business. Although college has been pretty much all about baseball, he knows a back-up plan is wise. He said he’d like to become a state trooper if baseball doesn’t work out. During winter break he has time off, but is still working out. When spring classes start, the plan is to not schedule classes for Fridays, as the players may travel Friday to Sunday.
His social circle is pretty much made up of ball players. Most of the guys are housed together as they share the same schedules and practice three times a week. This makes for few problems as they all have similar interests. He says fall is the best time to do other things, like hunt, which is another of Murphy’s peak enjoyments that he shares with his entire family. Most of the relatives are hunters.
The few, short 16 days home mid-August didn’t find Murphy in full relaxation mode. He was a regular at Paul V. Moore either working out daily in the weight room or hitting with Brad Gass who has been his best friend from childhood days in the little league minors.
Dreams don’t always come true if you sit and wait, sometimes you need to work to make them happen.
When it comes to dreams, what kid doesn’t imagine himself on the front of a baseball trading card?
Consider that to be another dream realized. As a player for Team USA, Murphy will be included on a Topps baseball card. The future is still unfolding for Murphy as he continues to dream, conquer and slay monsters and hit home runs in the game of life.
Murphy says he’d like to make a career of baseball. He doesn’t want to be one of those guys that goes for 3-4 years in Minor League, then done. He wants a long time career.
Murphy says, “I want to thank my parents for always being there and living the dream with me. And I want to send a big shout out to Dean Gass who started me out. Dean has been a big mentor when it comes to baseball.”
Murphy is the son of Tom and Kelly Murphy of West Monroe. Grandparents are Stan and Bev Hunold of West Monroe, Mary Murphy of Central Square and the late Thomas Murphy.
To follow Murphy’s baseball career at University of Buffalo, go the the college website: http://www.buffalobulls.com/sports/bsb/index
Photo Caption: Displaying the form that has earned him countless home runs, Murphy bats at Fenway Park.