Oct. 8, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Growing up as a baseball player in Texas, David Murphy had a bucket list that he's been able to fill quite nicely.
One of his only regrets is not making it to the College World Series in 2003 with Baylor, when the Bears were five outs from sweeping seventh-ranked LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional.
"I think of all the things that I dreamed of experiencing as a kid in my baseball career, I've pretty much done everything besides play in Omaha," Murphy said of the destination site for the World Series. "Well, I guess the one other thing is that I have not won a World Series. But I've been fortunate enough to play in two."
Getting elected to the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame might not have been on that bucket list as a child, but Murphy is part of a 2013 class that will be inducted on his 32nd birthday on Oct. 18.
"Whether I'm still playing or not, it still means a lot, period," said Murphy, a career .275 hitter in the major leagues who just finished his seventh season as an outfielder with the Texas Rangers.
"Maybe I haven't had really had a chance to step back and realize how important it is. I mean, I haven't even been inducted yet. But Waco and Baylor University have such a big place in my heart, and it will always be a special place. That's where my wife and I met; that's where I played my final games leading up to becoming a professional baseball player and achieving a lifelong dream. The Hall of Fame, in any capacity, is the ultimate honor. And I feel honored to be chosen."
An All-American on that 2003 Baylor baseball team, Murphy was the Most Outstanding Player at the Hattiesburg Regional, collecting a two-run double in a 3-2 comeback victory over 12th-ranked Southern Mississippi in the final.
And then at the Baton Rouge Super Regional, the Bears knocked off LSU, 4-1, and led Game 2, 5-4, needing just six more outs to advance to the World Series. But the Tigers struck for back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning for a 6-5 win and routed the Bears, 20-5, in the decisive third game.
Murphy still holds single-season school records for hits (121) and multi-hit games (40) during that 2003 season, when he hit a modern era-best .413, and ranks among the career leaders in batting average (No. 3, .346) and multi-hit games (No. 9, 70). But he almost never made it to Waco.
"Baylor was never really that big on my radar," said Murphy, an all-state pick at Klein High School in Spring, Texas. "I was always a fan of Texas A&M growing up, for no particular reason. And then when one of my sisters went, it made me love A&M even more. . . . I got on the Texas bandwagon, just because they showed interest. . . . Everywhere I went, everybody told me I was going to play as a freshman and have all these great opportunities on the field that I could turn into a pro career, hopefully. But there was just something about the Baylor coaching staff, where I felt like they were being truthful, and I just felt like I was going to be taken care of."
More of a pitcher and first baseman in high school, Murphy made a smooth transition to the outfield at Baylor, playing both corner spots in three seasons with the Bears.
"It's not like outfield was completely foreign to me," he said. "It was just foreign in the sense of being a full-time outfielder. I had always played where I was needed, whether it was first base, pitching or playing in the outfield. But it was the beginning of me becoming a full-time outfielder."
Taken by the Boston Red Sox with the 17th pick overall in the 2003 Major League Baseball draft, Murphy made his major league debut with the Red Sox in 2006 and was traded to the Rangers for relief pitcher Eric Gagne before Boston's World Series run the next year.
"I think it was the perfect situation when I came over here," Murphy said of his trade to Texas. "I was in a situation in Boston where I knew I wasn't going to get very much opportunity. I got traded over here, and the team wasn't great at the time, but it was a great opportunity for me as a younger guy to kind of establish myself as a big-league player."
Although he's had to split time in the outfield for most of his six full seasons in Arlington, Murphy has had at least 400 at-bats each of those years and hit a career-best .304 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI last year.
As a key player in the Rangers' recent resurgence, Murphy played on teams that got swept by the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 World Series and lost in seven to the St. Louis Cardinals the next year.
"Once the national anthem is played and the game starts, it's just another game," Murphy said. "And I feel like the World Series or the Super Bowl or any type of world championship is always blown up on TV. In the end, it was just another baseball game. You're just, obviously, playing for a lot more on a bigger stage."
Murphy said he will "always have incredible memories of the 2011 World Series." With the Rangers holding a 3-2 series lead and up 7-5 with two out in the ninth of Game 6, the Cardinals tied it on a two-run triple to right that Nelson Cruz misplayed, rallied from a two-run deficit again in the 10th and then won it on a walk-off homer by David Freese in the bottom of the 11th.
"Win or lose, Game 6 of the 2011 World Series will be the greatest game that I've ever been a part of," Murphy said. "And that was in a loss. . . . That doesn't take the sting out of what happened in World Series against the Cardinals, because there are still times when I see highlights, and I get a little sick to my stomach. But I think that's just the competitive nature in me."
In a lot of ways, the 2013 season was Murphy's most disappointing. Not only did he hit a career-low .220 with 13 homers and 45 RBI, eventually losing his starting job, but the Rangers failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, losing to Tampa Bay, 5-2, in a play-in game on Monday.
"From a team standpoint, we did a lot of good things, but ultimately I feel like we underachieved," Murphy said. "We had a lot of experience and a lot of talent, and we were as good as any of the teams still playing. That's the disappointing thing is knowing that you're good enough, but we just didn't take care of business and didn't execute to the point where we're still playing.
"On a personal level, obviously, it was a tough season. But I feel like there is wisdom in failure, especially in the game of baseball. And it's a great opportunity for me to come back next year, wherever that might be, and get a second wind and continue playing like I'm capable and finish strong."
As one of several free agents on the Rangers, most of the speculation has been that Murphy won't be back next year. But since he can't start talking to other teams until "a few weeks after the World Series," Murphy said he hasn't even talked to his agent yet.
The fact that most of his career has been in his home state has been a "huge blessing," said Murphy, who lives in a home in Southlake, Texas, with his wife, Andrea; two daughters, Madison, 6, and Faith, 5; and son, Cole, 2, "It's such a luxury, talking to other players, being able to play where I live," he said. "Not a lot of guys are able to do that. And from a family standpoint, that's been huge."
Murphy is part of a Hall of Fame class that includes longtime NBA player Brian Skinner (men's basketball), Lady Bear All-American Sheila Lambert (women's basketball), track and field All-American and NCAA champion Brandon Couts and football's Jerry Marcontell and Walter "Pinkie" Palmer.
"It's always special to come back," Murphy said. "My family and I try to make it back to Homecoming, if I'm not still playing. My kids love going to the parade, and we've been at a football game the last few years. It's always a fun family weekend for us. And being inducted in the Hall of Fame, it's just going to make it that much better."
Tickets to the Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Ferrell Center, are $50 each. Table sponsorships (seating for 10) are also available for $750 (individual) and $1,000 (corporate). Contact Tammy Hardin in the "B" Association office at 254-710-3045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.