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.” ••