A big league performance

Hurl­ing the heat: North Cath­ol­ic gradu­ate Sean Murphy pitched in his first game for the Oak­land Ath­let­ics on March 24 against the Texas Rangers. The Fishtown nat­ive had two strikeouts, one walk and one hit off a bunt dur­ing his de­but. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF RAY­MOND MURPHY

Sean Murphy’s child­hood school­yard game sud­denly be­came a real­ity when he pitched in his first game for the Oak­land Ath­let­ics dur­ing spring train­ing on Monday, March 24, in a Cac­tus League game in Sur­prise, Ar­iz.

“It brought back memor­ies of when I was a kid pitch­ing against my broth­er in Adaire school­yard,” he said. “We used to say lineups I was pitch­ing against and ima­gine play­ers like Chip­per Jones step­ping in the box.”

Murphy, a Fishtown nat­ive and 2006 North Cath­ol­ic High School gradu­ate, grew up down the block from Al­ex­an­der Adaire School on Thompson Street.

While it wasn’t Jones at the plate, the 25-year-old minor league pitch­er faced some of Ma­jor League Base­ball’s biggest bats in the form of Ad­ri­an Beltre and Prince Field­er, of the Texas Rangers, over the course of four and one-third in­nings. Des­pite hav­ing found out just that morn­ing that he would be start­ing, Murphy offered up a ster­ling per­form­ance. His pitch­ing out­come was two strikeouts, one walk and one hit off a bunt, 67 pitches in all. 

And he struck out Prince Field­er.

Older broth­er Pat was at home listen­ing to the game on MLB ra­dio.

“My head al­most hit the ceil­ing when he struck out Prince Field­er,” he said. “I just nev­er ima­gined he’d be out there on the mound strik­ing out Prince Field­er, a guy we’ve been watch­ing for 10 years now. I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face since that day.”

Dad Ray Murphy, who coached Sean when he played for Fishtown Ath­let­ic Club, was in the stands with fam­ily friends to see the game first-hand, hav­ing traveled out to Ari­zona to vis­it Sean dur­ing spring train­ing and share some fam­ily his­tory — older sis­ter Heath­er and older broth­er Pat were born in Ari­zona.  

“I was float­ing on my chair,” Ray Murphy re­called. “He didn’t get their B team, he played their start­ing lineup. His fast­ball was touch­ing 94 mph and he just keeps get­ting bet­ter.”

Mom Lor­raine Murphy, who was at home in Fishtown, said it was like fate.

“It’s amaz­ing how things come full circle,” she said. “Ray took him out to show him our house we had built and that’s where he ended up pitch­ing his first ma­jor league game.”

At present, Sean Murphy is in his first sea­son play­ing AAA ball, just one level un­der the ma­jor leagues. He plays for the Sac­ra­mento River Cats of the Pa­cific Coast League. He is 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA. Murphy, a right-hander, was draf­ted in the 33rd round in 2010, He fin­ished second  in wins and third in strikeouts among Oak­land minor leaguers in 2012. Now, he’s start­ing in AAA this sea­son, a big leap from his days as a bat­boy.

“He was a typ­ic­al Fishtown kid,” Ray Murphy said. “He was al­ways the bat­boy on Pat’s team, and I think he learned from just be­ing around the game all the time.”

Sean honed his craft play­ing for vari­ous teams, in­clud­ing North Cath­ol­ic, the Phil­lies RBI pro­gram, Brides­burg Amer­ic­an Le­gion and Key­stone Col­lege.

Wheth­er it’s thanks to his Fishtown mind­set or strong arm, Murphy has already es­tab­lished him­self in the minor leagues. He has a ca­reer re­cord of 28-25 with a 4.05 ERA. 

Ac­cord­ing to his mom, there is no “Plan B.” Base­ball is his greatest pas­sion, and she, along with the rest of the fam­ily and neigh­bor­hood friends, know that al­though there is more hard work to be done, the ul­ti­mate goal is with­in reach.

“My par­ents have al­ways sup­por­ted me in my dream to be a base­ball play­er, and I have a lot of fans back at home that sup­port me and it feels good to know that I have that type of sup­port sys­tem,” Murphy said. “I want this or­gan­iz­a­tion to know that I be­long here, and there is noth­ing to hold me back.” ••

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