Arizona Daily Star: Tucson Padres playing “Murphy Ball”

A.E. ARAIZA / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

 

From Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star:

 

Tucson Padres: Team is playing ‘Murphy Ball’

Wednesday, it was nearly 30 minutes of practicing bunt defense. One day earlier, it was working on tagging from third base on a fly ball to the outfield.

At other times, it’s been extra ground balls, pitchers’ fielding practice or perfecting hitting the cut-off man.

These are drills you see at a high school or even Little League practices.

But for the Tucson Padres, this is the new normal: fundamentals, fundamentals and more fundamentals.

It’s the Pat Murphy way.

“Nobody wants to do that stuff,” Padres outfielder Travis Buck said. “Nobody. But he makes it fun because it can get really old, really quick.”

The first-year Padres manager wasted no time at the beginning of the season making sure the Padres were going to play “Murphy Ball.”

With Tucson coming off back-to-back losing seasons, the manager wanted to instill winning baseball in the Kino Stadium clubhouse from Day 1. It didn’t matter to him that victories aren’t really the priority at the Triple-A level or that a lot of minor-league players are more concerned with their own statistics than they are with wins and losses.

The man with 947 Division I wins at Arizona State and Notre Dame and just 400 losses knows only one way of doing things.

“The best way to describe it is you have to be accountable at all times,” outfielder Daniel Robertson said. “If you’re a spiritual person, you know someone’s always watching. When you’re playing for Pat Murphy, you feel like everything you do, he’s watching.

“It’s like playing in front of a family member because you always want to be at your best in front of him.”

Murphy’s way is working.

A.E. ARAIZA / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

“Pat Murphy, who made his name in college baseball at Notre Dame and ASU, has brought his brand of “Murphy Ball” to the Tucson Padres.” – Daniel Berk (PHOTO: A.E. ARAIZA / ARIZONA DAILY STAR)

After Tucson’s 3-2 victory over Fresno on Wednesday night, the Padres are 28-25. One year ago at this point, the Padres were 20-33. In 2011, the team was 23-30. So although the record doesn’t appear all that special, it’s an improvement from the past two seasons.

“The Padres Triple-A team hasn’t won in quite some time, and everyone just expected us not to be very good,” said Buck, who played for Murphy at ASU. “I think most guys thought it was going to be, ‘Get your numbers, work hard and then move on to the big leagues.’ No, that’s not going to happen with him. He wanted to make the Tucson Padres relevant.

“He doesn’t care what our talent level is compared to other teams, he expects to win.”

Of course, it’s not all on Murphy.

Tucson’s pitching staff is far improved compared with the past two seasons, and the lineup is filled with players who have previous Triple-A experience and major-league time under their belt.

But the culture at Kino Stadium is different, and the players think Murphy deserves the majority of the credit for that.

“Guys come to the park every day now expecting to win,” Buck said. “Guys in this system who have played in this Triple-A before, it’s a different feeling for them now.

“That’s all on him.”

Robertson, who went to Oregon State and played against Murphy while he was at ASU, agrees with Buck. The outfielder said Murphy has a unique way of getting players to want to work hard to be at their very best.

“I didn’t like him at all when I was at Oregon State,” Robertson said. “It didn’t have to deal with him as a man; I just wanted to beat him. You could always see, watching his teams, there was a different mentality. He’s great with words and can convince you of anything.

“He could sell ketchup to a woman in a white dress.”

Ask Murphy and he’s say there’s still a lot of work to be done. He said Tucson’s record should be better and eventually will be. Fifty-three games into the season and the veteran coach and manager feels he’s just starting to have an imprint on the team.

“I don’t care where this team has been in the past,” Murphy said. “It’s an ever-changing club. The biggest thing I’m pleased about, maybe the only thing, is that we haven’t been out of too many games. I think it’s only been two out of 52 games where we’ve come up for the last time and haven’t had a chance to win. I’m proud of that.”

As of May 31st, Murphy’s Padres are 28-26, standing 3 games out of first place in the Pacific Southern division.

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