By Jimmie Earls
Sun Sports Writer
Daniel Murphy, grandson of Springfield resident Ann Murphy, recently celebrated his 24th birthday on April 1. But you could say he didn’t celebrate until he smacked his first home run of the season on Opening Day against the Reds in Cincinnati.
He also added an RBI on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice that knocked in the second and deciding run for the Mets as they beat the Reds 2-1 on April 6.
“Tell you what, it was just excitng to be able to help the team win that day,” said Murphy. “The second (hit) with the bases loaded, Johan (Santana) really put together a good AB and Jose (Reyes) had a great at-bat, and I was able to just get up there and punch one to the first baseman to get the run in.”
Murphy made his major league debut on Aug. 2, 2008 and hit .313 in 49 games for the Mets last season. That would be enough to satisfy most rookies, but not Murphy, who reflected on last season.
“Unfinished,” he added. “This team is excited about 2009 and what it has to offer. Hopefully we’ll make the playoffs.”
So impressed was Mets manager Jerry Manuel, that when it came time to finalize the starters for opening day in 2009, Murphy’s name was penciled in in left field.
“It was very exciting,” Murphy said. “To be able to break in with the big league team and to get out there and help this team on opening day was very exciting.”
Murphy, the son of Springfield native Tom Murphy, was born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla. After playing college ball at Jacksonville University, he made a meteoric rise through the minor leagues.
Before his call-up to the big show in August last year, he began with the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones before playing 95 games for the Double A Binghamton Mets. After playing one game with the Triple A New Orleans Zephyrs of the Pacific Coast League, Murphy got the call to the majors.
“In the majors, everyone you play against and play with are so much more consistent,” he added. “The pitchers are more consistent and the hitters are more consistent on what they can handle. It’s just an adjustment.”
Sports has always played an important role in Murphy’s life.
“My father’s a huge UK basketball fan, and every Saturday, we played baseball,” he said. “It’s been a great outlet and I thank my parents for getting me into athletics at a young age. I can’t say enough about what my parents have done for me and what role models they’ve been. Along with my brother and sister, they’re better people than I am.”
Murphy still keeps in touch with his grandmother Ann regularly, despite the traveling involved with being a big leaguer.
“I try to give her a call,” he said. “We come up every Christmas and she’s here (in Cincinnati) right now wth her daughter, my aunt Joanie and Tom Donnally, who grew up there in Springfield and went to Washington County High School. It’s exciting to have them here.”
Murphy offered a few words of advice to young people.
“Just keep working hard,” added Daniel. “You never know what can happen. This game and athletics have so much to offer.”
When asked what he looked forward to in 2009, Murphy was quick with his reply.
“Winning the World Series.”
Murphy has a potent bat, but he’s improving his defense, making a couple of thrilling catches in the season-opening series in Cincinnati.
Murphy was calm before the second game of three against Cincinnati. To look at him, you know he is focused on the season ahead and attaining the ultimate goal for any ballplayer, be it a youngster on a youth league team or a veteran in the big show.
The series against the Reds proved to be a good start to 2009 for Murphy. He had four hits in 14 at-bats in the three-game series in Cincinnati to start off the year with a .286 batting average, and going five-for-five on the defensive side, making five putouts out of five chances.
With Gary Sheffield sitting on the bench, speculation surrounds the future of the Mets outfield. But so far, 2009 is proving to hold no sophomore slump for Murphy, and it’s easy to see why the Mets are impressed with this big leaguer with a small town connection.