Mike Murray Interview: Giants Slugging Prospect – Baseball Runs in the Family
Sunday January 29, 2012
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: Welcome to the world of Mike Murray! You think we love baseball? This guy grew up in the game! From a father that played pro ball, a brother who was drafted and a sister who captained her university softball team- to say baseball is in his genes is an understatement. Murray is a catcher in the Giants organization. To be a catcher and control a baseball game, you know that he has baseball smarts. He came to the Giants in 2010, playing in two different levels. Last year, Murray played the entire season with the Salem-Keizer Volcanos in the Northwest League. How are the numbers you ask? Good. Really…really…good! In the field, Murray has proven to be a solid defensive catcher. A .980 fielding percentage, to go along with a 33% caught stealing in his career thus far. But the real magic has been at the plate. A .331 lifetime BA. .394 OBP. Last year, Mike had close to a 1:1 walk/strikeout ratio (28/37). A lifetime .460 SLG. Last year, he popped 6 home runs in only 63 games. At the age of 23, we expect to see Mike Murray in AA Richmond very soon (how does 2012 sound?)
An intelligent young man beyond his years, I can tell that Mike has received a great education. Both in the college classroom (Wake Forest Dean’s List!), as well as at home. He is grounded, yet confident. He has shown great potential, yet continues to want to learn. If baseball smarts and determination were the 6th tool, Mike Murray would rate an 80 on my scale. Watch out Buster Posey, there is yet another talented catcher rising up the Giants ranks! Mike is showing that San Francisco really knows how to scout and develop solid all-around catchers. With stories of Buster Posey moving to another position one day a real possibility, San Francisco is ready to groom the next top starting catcher from its farm. It might be behind the plate, first base or outfield. But with his slugging bat, Mike Murray is making a statement that he deserves his shot one day- regardless of position.
When all is said and done, to top it all off: Mike will one day be heading to law school and eventually work his way up to a GM role in baseball. The future Billy Beane in the making? We will have to wait to find out, as Mike still has many years left of grinding left on the diamond. Today on MLB reports, meet one of the brightest prospects coming up the San Francisco Giants system – Mike Murray:
MLB reports: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?
Mike Murray: Growing up I was a huge fan of Paul O’Neill. I loved the passion and intensity he had when he played. I always felt as a fan that you knew you were always getting his best, which is something I try to think about when I play. As a hitter, I loved the way he used the whole field and never took at bats off. My first MLB game growing up was in 1995 when he received his batting title from the strike shortened season at Yankee Stadium.
MLB reports: Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?
Mike Murray: Derek Jeter. I was 8 years old when he broke in, and was very lucky to grow up in baseball through his career. I appreciate how seriously he takes himself, the game, and his role in baseball. I believe that one of the most important things about being a player is being reliable for your teammates. You always know that Jeter is going to be prepared and will go through a wall to help win games.
MLB reports: Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?
Mike Murray: In the summer of 2002 my dad took my siblings and me up to Cape Cod for a vacation to see a few Cape League games. The first night we found the Chatham vs. Orleans game. I remember my dad talking to me about the league and how cool it would be to get to play in it. In 2009 my dad and siblings got to come to Fenway and watch me represent Chatham in the All-Star game. That night was special for me.
On the pro side, my first night in the Northwest league in 2010, I hit a home run in the ninth with two outs that was the game winner. It was my first professional home run, one that I will always remember.
MLB reports: What are your goals going into the 2012 season?
Mike Murray: My first goal going into camp is to break with the San Jose club. Many of the Giants high round picks from last spring and top performers from the Sally league will already be slated to SJ, so competition to make the club will be for a few spots. As a hitter my goals always stay the same, to keep my approach consistent and produce runs. I have been working a bit more this off-season on getting consistent power and backspin. As I defender, I have been working out a lot at first base and also doing some outfield work. It is still an adjustment not doing a ton behind the plate, but I’ll be prepared to get at-bats wherever I can and wherever in the field that means.
MLB reports: What was the process like signing with the Giants in 2010?
Mike Murray: I felt like coming off of a real good summer in the Cape League and following it up with a really solid senior campaign at Wake Forest that I had positioned myself pretty well for the draft. As it worked out, the teams that showed the most interest in me ended up taking catchers earlier in the draft and it didn’t work out on draft day. About 4 or 5 days later, I got a call from Giants’ area scout Jeremy Cleveland with a contract offer. That phone call was a relief knowing I was going to get the opportunity to play professionally. It was also a challenge to prove the Giants right and a whole lot of other people wrong. It drives me each day I am on the field.
MLB reports: What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?
Mike Murray: My best skill on the field I have is what I do in the batter’s box. Everybody that plays professional baseball has some talent as a hitter, and I do believe I am a talented hitter as well. What I think is more important is that I have a good understanding of my swing, my approach, and how to adjust those things at bat to at-bat, game to game. I try to think like a catcher when I hit, thinking of how I would try to get myself out if I were calling pitches. So much of hitting is your approach and confidence, and whether it is true or not, I always believe I am going to win that battle with the pitcher each at-bat.
MLB reports: What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?
Mike Murray: I am working at a couple of new positions for me. I have been a catcher primarily for my whole life, and I feel extremely comfortable and understand the nuances of catching from experience. As I am learning first base and the corner outfield, it is all about the repetition for me in learning the intricacies of the positions I am learning now. Getting acclimated at first base especially has been a focus of my offseason.
MLB reports: How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game? Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?
Mike Murray: I have always absolutely hated striking out. The high school stat I was most proud of was that I only had 12 strikeouts in over 350 plate appearances in my career. I think I hate striking out to the point that I won’t even give up a few more strikeouts to hit more home runs. One of the adjustments I have tried to make as a hitter is being ok striking out a few times more if it translates into more extra base hits. Our player development staff always preaches that 50% of all at-bats come with two strikes, so you better have a good approach with two strikes.
I think that a good approach with two strikes and a good amount of walks are stats directly correlated to how good a hitter is in his pitch selection. The pitchers we face are too good to help out. I never go into a game trying to walk, as I think that takes away from how aggressive you need to be successful, but you have to make sure you are aggressive at pitches in the zone. If I can be consistent doing that, I will be happy with where my walk and strikeout numbers end up.
MLB reports: Long term do you see yourself staying behind the plate considering Buster Posey is the current starting catcher? How do you view your role in the organization?
Mike Murray: Piggybacking on what I mentioned earlier, I see my career moving forward more as a part-time catcher and more so in first base, DH, left field roles. Even deeper then Buster, the Giants have done an outstanding job getting great catching depth in the minor leagues. Hector Sanchez, Tommy Joseph, Jeff Arnold, Dan Burkhart are all guys I have worked with and played with that do a great job behind the dish. I haven’t gotten to see any of second round pick Andrew Susac, but all I hear is great things.
I’ll help out whenever I need to or can behind the plate, but I know my role in the organization is to hit my way through it, and work to become a solid enough defender wherever there is a spot available.
MLB reports: How do you see defense as part of your overall game?
Mike Murray: I always took a lot of pride in being a reliable backstop for my pitchers and my teams in college and summer ball. As I mentioned, the Giants catching depth hasn’t provided for a ton of opportunities behind home plate, so my focus is on taking the same amount of work ethic from behind the plate into becoming a better defender elsewhere on the field.
MLB reports: If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?
Mike Murray: I would love to have an answer to this question other than I have no idea… but no idea is about as honest as I can be. One of the things about being a Free Agent and not being a huge bonus guy is that you have to prove yourself each and every day and each and every season. I don’t think I would want it any other way.
I understand that signing for more money or in a higher round buys you opportunities and that those types of guys have more equity to cash in if they have a below average year. I don’t have that luxury and that drives me to produce each and everyday. I have no plans of having a down year at any point. I will grind my way to really productive offensive seasons and see where that lands me.
MLB reports: Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?
Mike Murray: Pro ball has been mostly what I expected. There are certainly nights where you are sleeping on a bus floor that you ask yourself if you are crazy. But you usually wake up knowing you are where you are supposed to be and appreciate the opportunity.
MLB reports: What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball? Best friend(s) on the team that you most hang out with and what do you guys like to do to chill?
Mike Murray: In the offseason I chase around my dog, pick shows to catch up on Netflix, do a lot of reading, and spend a good bit of time in New York City.
I have been fortunate to have some great pro ball teammates. The great thing about pro ball is that your teammates come from such broad backgrounds. As a four-year college guy and graduate, my perspective is different from a JC guy, HS guy, or an international sign that is in the country for the first or second summer.
Now that we all have twitter, we are able to keep in pretty good touch over the offseason. I spend most of off-season texting back and forth with Garrett Buechele over our fantasy sports troubles and recently headed down to Philly with Joe Panik for the Winter Classic to root on the Blue Shirts.
MLB reports: A .331 lifetime average going into the season. A .394 OBP last year. You can hit and you can take walks. We are intrigued- what has been the secret to your success thus far?
Mike Murray: Being a college senior sign after four years presents its challenges as a prospect. You go in with less investment from the Club and a bit older than people may like for prospects. However, my college career in the ACC, Cape Cod, NECBL, and Valley League have prepared me well to succeed in pro ball. I had over 800 at bats in those four years against big leaguers, first rounders, and really talented guys. The experience I have as a hitter has made the transition to pro ball that much easier.
I talk a lot with some of our younger hitters in the organization about approach, staying positive, learning their swings, and I always tell them how much respect I have for them making the jump from High School or after a year of college. My experiences in college really taught me how to fail and succeed and the best way to put myself in a position to be more successful. I don’t know if I would be the same hitter if I didn’t have those experiences where I did.
MLB reports: Do you have a favorite pre-game meal?
Mike Murray: The favorite pre-game meal has everything to do with where I am. When I was in the NWL this past summer, my roommates and I made a habit of finding our way to Big Town Hero for our pre-game meal. When in Scottsdale, there is no better place to start your day then at the Breakfast Club.
MLB reports: Final Thoughts?
Mike Murray: Just figured I’d give you a little more personal information in final thoughts…
I graduated in 2010 from Wake Forest university with a degree in Political Science and History. I was an ACC Honor Roll and Dean’s List student, and captain of the Wake Forest baseball team. I deferred admission into law school when I signed to play professional baseball. When I am done playing I am going to go to law school, with the hopes of eventually getting into the front office and becoming a GM.
My dad played minor league ball in the Chicago White Sox organization. My younger brother was drafted last year by the Houston Astros, but decided instead to enroll at Georgia Tech. He is a freshmen catcher there and was last year’s New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year. My younger sister was the Captain of the University of Maryland’s softball team last year and also is a catcher.
Thank you MLB reports! M.M.
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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