Results tagged ‘ Notre Dame ’

Mentor, Example, Friend, Adversary: Brewers Bench Coach Pat Murphy is the Baseball Conversationalist

Each morning in Spring Training, you’ll find me down on the field capturing photos and video of the Cactus Crew’s workouts and practices, documenting them to share on our social media channels for fans back home.

And, while there are a lot of things that are new and different this season—from the structure of the workouts and some unique drills to personnel and many of the players—one thing that’s impossible to miss is the distinctive style and energy that new Brewers Bench Coach Pat Murphy brings to the ballpark each and every day.

After watching him during practice and hearing so many players and coaches speak so highly of him, I asked Murphy if I could sit down with him for an interview—to get to know him better, discuss his coaching philosophy and to try to dig up some good dirt on our skipper.

 

MURPHY’S BACKGROUND

Most Brewers fans know by now that Murphy, 57, has a long history in the sport at many different levels of the game.

The Syracuse, New York native graduated from Christian Brothers (NY) Academy where he played football, basketball and boxed in addition to playing baseball. He then graduated from Florida Atlantic University, where he also pitched.

After college, Murphy pitched in the minor leagues with the Giants (1982) and Padres (1983) organizations and professionally in Australia for Sydney (1984) and in the Northwest League with Tri-City (1985-86) before embarking on his 25-year NCAA head coaching career, primarily as a Division I Head Coach for Notre Dame (1988-1994) and Arizona State University (1995-2009).

It was during his time at Notre Dame than he met and formed a long-lasting friendship with Brewers Manager Craig Counsell, then his player.

Following his college coaching career, Murphy then returned to the Padres organization where he spent the 2010 season as a special assistant to baseball operations before moving on to manage at Class-A Eugene (2011-12), Triple-A Tucson (2013) and Triple-A El Paso (2014-15).

Murphy became interim manager of the Padres last season, replacing Bud Black in June.

It was in this capacity that Murphy and Counsell – the teacher and the pupil – found themselves back on the diamond together once again last August. Only this time, it was in opposing dugouts as managers at the game’s highest level when the Padres faced the Brewers at Miller Park.

Then, in November after the Padres opted not to retain Murphy, it did not come as a big surprise when it was announced that Counsell would be adding Murphy to his staff as the new Brewers Bench Coach.

 

NEVER A LULL IN CONVERSATION

“We’ve had a 25-year baseball conversation,” Counsell said at the time of the announcement. “He’s shown a great ability to impact people. I’ve seen him impact players in college, in professional baseball and in the big leagues. I feel really lucky to be able to get him here.”

New Brewers coach Jason Lane also has a history with Murphy, playing for him in parts of 2014 and 2015 at Triple-A El Paso, and Lane referenced a similar ongoing conversation when I met with him last week.

“We had this bond and great banter back and forth about that game. He became just a huge influence in my life and really showed me a lot of things about who I was as a player and empowered me to help younger guys early on,” Lane said.

L-R: Manager Craig Counsell, Bench Coach Pat Murphy and Coach Jason Lane. Murphy is always in the middle of a baseball conversation.

L-R: Manager Craig Counsell, Bench Coach Pat Murphy and Coach Jason Lane. Murphy is always in the middle of a baseball conversation.

When asked about that “conversation,” Murphy explains it like this:

“Your former players become your life. It becomes your life, it’s like your workshop and they teach you. They all have taught me more than I’ve taught them. And I really believe that. That’s the fun part. It becomes just a nice conversation, a nice circle, a nice friendship, a nice relationship. Those guys to me… you know it’s hard to talk about. Those guys mean so much to me,” he said.

There are too many relationships like this that Murphy has made over his career to begin listing names, but it’s safe to say that there’s never a lull in his conversation.

Jonathan Lucroy and Pat Murphy start a conversation during batting practice.

Jonathan Lucroy and Pat Murphy start a conversation during batting practice.

“I’ve learned this game on the fly. I set out to be maybe a football coach…started down that path and really had to learn the game. I played in college and the minor leagues, but now I love the game and I don’t know that I really understood the game back then when I started or when I played, but now I understand the game. I’m just thankful all these guys have taught me the game.”

 

TALKING THE TALK AND WALKING THE WALK: COACHING

Murphy said that it’s much different coaching players at the Major League level, as opposed to college players.

“These are men that have been through much more usually and they have a pretty good idea in what they want to do, so now it’s more trying to reach them and connect with them so you can help them possibly find their best self more often. I view it like we’re offensive linemen, so to speak… we open the holes for them to run through and gain more yardage,” Murphy says.

However, Murphy doesn’t get hung up on levels of the game when it comes to coaching.

“I take the profession seriously. This is a big, important role, no matter what level you coach at. You’re a mentor sometimes, you’re an example sometimes, sometimes you’re a friend, sometimes you’re an adversary, you know the whole thing, the gambit. It’s important, whatever it is. If it’s genuine, if it’s well-intended, then you could possibly be impactful—possibly. But you can’t look for that. It either happens on its own or it doesn’t,” he says.

So, has he changed his approach from his college or Minor League days?

“I think you better be changing every year regardless of level. I think you have to adjust to the level, you have to stay yourself, and you better keep changing, getting better, hopefully, or evaluating yourself constantly, talking to other coaches…”

Just like he credits his former players with helping him understand the game, Murphy says that learning from other coaches has been something that he’s especially enjoyed.

And that hasn’t been limited to the baseball diamond. Murphy crossed paths with two legendary college football coaches while at Notre Dame—Lou Holtz and Barry Alvarez, so I asked him if he learned anything from those individuals in particular.

“There’s no question. Lou has been a great influence in my life and watching him operate, command a room, command a team, connect with a team….You know, he didn’t coach from power. He didn’t need to. The guys knew his passion and intent and followed him. He was zany and zaniness also came into play.

And Barry—he’s the consummate, genuine guy. I mean, Barry—the players trusted him immediately. They trusted him and they connected with him from day one. He was a powerful leader and he had fun, you know, which was a beautiful thing….and he kept it real. You mention those two guys and that’s as good as it I’ve seen out there.”

 

PUTTING THE “FUN” IN FUNDAMENTALS

Murphy also likes to keep things fun. He says that the Brewers coaching staff is trying to emphasize to this team that the game doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be focused on some areas that can sometimes be taken for granted.

“Yes, the fundamentals. But it’s how you convey them that I think is important. I like to keep it fun because people learn better when they’re in that state of mind, you know realizing that when we’re practicing and when we’re preparing it doesn’t have to be drudgery,” Murphy said.

Sometimes, though, he admits, it might need to be drudgery, depending on the situation. And that’s what makes him a great coach—he knows how to get the best out of people.

 

HARD-NOSED COACH & PLAYER

Murphy says that on the topic of Murphy, Counsell has told the team that “he’ll make you laugh or he’ll make you cry” and many of the players have asked him about a story that is widely told from Murphy’s days coaching Counsell: That one time when Murphy broke Counsell’s nose.

Counsell played for Murphy at Notre Dame from 1989-92. As the story goes, Counsell irked his manager with a series of errors one fall and Murphy ordered him onto a half-frozen field in November to field hot-shot grounders. Not fun then. Drudgery.

One particularly hard-hit baseball took a bad hop, bounced up and broke Counsell’s nose.

“His nose was over here at 4:15,” Murphy recounted to Adam McCalvy, holding his hand on the side of his face, “and then he was back at practice at 5:15 with his nose back in place and said, ‘Hit me some more.’ That taught me everything I needed to know….He was destined to be undenied.”

Murphy won’t bite when I fish for crazy or embarrassing stories from Counsell’s college days, but does provide this telling tidbit:

“I’ll tell you one thing that he’ll hate me saying, but I will tell you. I made the guys write down their goals. I don’t know if that’s smart or not; I don’t know if that’s good coaching or not, I really don’t, but I made the guys write down their goals and I still have that goal sheet. And you guys would… if you could think back and you could see what he wrote, you guys would just shake your head like ‘That’s Craig.’ That quiet confidence…. Really amazing for a kid, for where he was as a freshman to write those things as goals.”

I know Counsell so therefore already know the answer, but I ask anyway: “And did he meet those goals?”

“He met those goals,” Murphy affirms with a nod and a look of pride. “Few people in this lifetime will meet those goals. It’s really incredible. “

Murphy says that while it wasn’t always easy to see all the way through Counsell’s college career, once Counsell got to be a senior, Murphy had no doubt he would go on to do great things in his career. In fact, Murphy boasts that he was once quoted as saying that Counsell would play in the Major Leagues.

“In the Blue & Gold Illustrated at Notre Dame, I said that he would be the next Major Leaguer from Notre Dame because he was so impressive day-in and day-out. He would help you offensively, he was so steady defensively, so steady a personality on the team.

“Looking back, it’s easy to say he worked so hard as a freshman, he handled adversity great as a sophomore, came into his own as a junior but…. but once he got to be a senior, you were pretty certain he wasn’t going to stop getting better. He got better every year,” Murphy recalls.

 

SOMETHING SPECIAL

Murphy says it’s those same qualities that helped Counsell overcome adversity, accomplish his goals, and succeed in his career that will also make him a successful manager.

“He’s not trying to copy anybody. He has a great mind, great vision. He really can link people. He can deal with people on all levels. The very qualities that got this kid from Whitefish Bay that didn’t have all the baseball tools and talent to turn that lack of tools and lack of talent into skills that worked for him at the highest level and championship level ball….That’s the very skill that will make him a successful manager in my opinion because he’s going to find the answer. That’s what’s going to happen, he’s going to find the answer,” Murphy says with confidence.

Murphy and Counsell carry the baseball conversation into the dugout this season.

Murphy and Counsell carry the baseball conversation into the dugout this season.

He continues, “He knows I care about him as a person and he knows I’ve got his back in every situation and I hope I can add something, I hope I can pull my weight because he’s got a special thing going here.”

I would have to agree. That’s certainly the feeling I get out on the practice fields every morning. Although I’m just out there shooting content, I can’t help but leave feeling energized and inspired.

Thanks, Pat, for letting me interrupt your conversation for this interview.:)

 

-Cait

@CMoyer

John Axford Participates in Milwaukee Film Festival Once Again

Thursday night was Opening Night for the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs through October 11.

If you check out the event, held at Landmark Oriental Theatre, Downer Theatre and Fox-Bay Cinema
Grill,
you just might spot some familiar faces in the crowd. This year, once again Brewers closer John Axford has been involved with the festival through Brewers Community Foundation, one of the event’s sponsors.

A 2005 graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Film, John is quite the movie buff.

Before each screening at the festival, you’ll see this trailer, which features John and through his involvement, he is also scheduled to attend and speak onstage prior to a screening of The Princess Bride on Saturday, October 6 at 2:30 p.m.

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Milwaukee Film Festival 2012 Sponsor Trailer from Milwaukee Film on Vimeo.

In addition, John will be a judge for the Cream City Cinema Competition. He’ll watch three feature films and one shorts program and then deliberate with the other jurors to select the winner of the Filmmaker in Residence Program.

Make sure to follow John on Twitter @JohnAxford and also check out the Film Festival website for updates.

As part of their support, Brewers Community Foundation is one of the sponsors for the Milwaukee Children’s Film Festival presented by PNC. The Children’s Film Festival is also sponsored by MetroParent and MilwaukeeMoms.com.

“The film festival is so great for the community. The quality of film and exposure to other cultures is a tremendous asset that I think people should take advantage of. In particular, the Children’s Film Festival fits well with Brewers Community Foundation’s focused interest in education,” said Executive Director of Brewers Community Foundation, Cecelia Gore.

The Children’s Film Festival is co-directed by Julia Magnasco, Education Director at First Stage Children’s Theater, and Brian Gallagher, the former Executive Coordinator of the Wisconsin International Children’s Film Festival; it features quality children’s cinema from around the world. Each screening includes discussions with filmmakers or educators, hands-on activities and take-home guides.

The Milwaukee Children’s Film Festival  will screen on the weekends during the film festival, today through Sunday, October 7 at the Oriental Theatre and Fox-Bay Cinema,

For those of you attending the festival, you might also recognize another name in the program: MLB Commissioner Allan H.(Bud) Selig and his wife, Suzanne, are also major supporters of the film festival and have been since its inception in 2008. In recognition of their support, the Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig Audience Award is given each year to the overall audience favorite film in the feature and short film categories.

-Cait

johnandcait@brewers.com

Closer John Axford to Open Film Festival Tonight

Brewers fans, are you looking for something to do on your off day?

Tonight is the Opening Night for the 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs through October 2.

If you check out the event, held at Landmark Oriental Theatre on Milwaukee’s Eastside, you just might spot some familiar faces in the crowd.  This year, Brewers closer John Axford has been involved with the festival through Brewers Community Foundation, one of the event’s sponsors.

If you remember my interview with John back in Spring Training when we were busy shooting our TV commercials, you’ll recall that John graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Film in 2005 and is quite the movie buff.

Through his involvement, John has been featured on billboards promoting the event and he also plans to attend the Opening Night party at Discovery World. Make sure to follow John on Twitter @JohnAxford for updates and also check out the Film Festival website, as rumor has it, there will be an interview with John posted shortly.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy and pitchers Randy Wolf and Tim Dillard, are also planning to attend opening night festivities.

As part of their support, Brewers Community Foundation is sponsoring Take One: Milwaukee Children’s Film Festival, presented by PNC. Take One is also sponsored by Marcus Theatres.

“The film festival is so great for the community. The quality of film and exposure to other cultures is a tremendous asset that I think people should take advantage of. In particular, the Children’s Film Festival fits well Brewers Community Foundation’s focused interest in education,” said Executive Director of Brewers Community Foundation, Cecelia Gore.

The Children’s Film Festival is co-directed by Julia Magnasco, Education Director at First Stage Children’s Theater, and Brian Gallagher, the former Executive Coordinator of the Wisconsin International Children’s Film Festival; it features quality children’s cinema from around the world. Each screening includes discussions with filmmakers or educators, hands-on activities and take-home guides.

Take One films will screen on the weekends during the film festival, September 24 and 25 at the Oriental Theatre and the Marcus Ridge Cinema in New Berlin and also on October 1 and 2 at both the Oriental and the Marcus North Shore Cinema in Mequon.

For those of you attending the festival, you might also recognize another name in the program: MLB Commissioner Allan H.(Bud) Selig and his wife, Suzanne, are also major supporters of the film festival and have been since its inception in 2008. In recognition of their support, the Allan H. (Bud) and Suzanne L. Selig Audience Award is given each year to the overall audience favorite film in the feature and short film categories.

For a complete schedule of all Film Festival events, click here: http://www.milwaukee-film.org.

-Cait

johnandcait@brewers.com

P.S. In speaking with Cecelia, I also discovered that a limited number of passes for Take One will be available at the Brewers Community Foundation 50/50 raffle tables during tomorrow night’s Brewers vs. Marlins game beginning at 7:10pm. Stop by, purchase your raffle tickets and you just might get to go to the festival on us!

Closing In On the Season with John Axford

Greetings from my desk in cold, snowy Milwaukee!

 

As I noted in an earlier post, I was down in Arizona last week for the filming of our 2011 TV commercials. We wrapped up our shoot on Thursday evening and I left warm and sunny Phoenix, Arizona yesterday, getting home just in time for our Brewers Arctic Tailgate event.

 


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Hearty Brewers fans were camping out when I swung by the ballpark on my way home from the airport last night, waiting anxiously to purchase individual game tickets, which went on sale at 9am this morning

 

[The first 2,000 fans received a free t-shirt, Klement’s hot dog and a Pepsi. Plus, they also received special one-day only ticket offers that weren’t available anywhere else. If you missed out on the event, you can still purchase tickets and guarantee your place in the crowd to the best games this season, by calling our Box Office at (414) 902-4000, or logging on to brewers.com.]

 

So, yeah! Individual tickets are on sale now, Spring Training games start on Monday… Brewers Baseball will be back in Milwaukee before you know it!

 

Look for our spots to debut during the first games of the season, beginning with Opening Day in Cincinnati on Thursday, March 31.

 

And, while I can’t give away what this year’s spots are going to be about, I can tell you that they will have the same type of theme as last year’s spots and we’re bringing some new guys into the mix, including closer John Axford.

 

 



Thumbnail image for P1010942.JPGJohn is no stranger to what goes on behind-the-scenes on a set.

 

On Thursday, John showed up on set to star in one of the spots, but he could have just as easily been directing them if life had taken him down a different path.

 

That’s because John graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Film in 2005 and even began attending Canisius College to start working on his Master’s of Science in Sports Administration before he signed with the New York Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in 2006 and began his career in professional baseball.

 


john mound.jpg

What’s John doing? You will have to wait until our spots air this season to find out!

 

As we waited for the crew from Icarus Films and the representatives from our agency, 2-Story Creative, to set up between shots, John told me all about his film classes at Notre Dame.

 

 “I did a 16-milimeter black-and-white film my junior year,” he said. “I still have the hard copy with all of the edits and cuts and everything, because the way we cut it was actually the old-school way. We actually cut the film and taped it together. We didn’t do it digitally. That came later. It was only 12 minutes long, maybe a little less. We got 400 feet of film, which is about 11 minutes and you had a partner, so each person had their own roll.”

 

“It was pretty cool, the old Steenbeck machine, you had to get the rolls on there and line them up and press play and then fast forward it through and stop it on a certain part where you wanted it. You go frame-by-frame and then cut it and bring in the other roll, hold it down flat and tape it. I really I liked it,” he continued.

 

When I asked what the film was about, John said, “It’s rather depressing. That’s what I found out about myself while doing film classes. I like the depressing, dark movies. Mine was essentially about spousal neglect and suicide.”

 

And it is true, he does gravitate toward the darker films–most of John’s favorite movies in recent years have been heavier foreign films and films such as Children of Men and the Oscar-nominated Black Swan.

 

“I really like open-ended movies,” he said. “Black Swan, I absolutely loved. I would like for that to win Best Picture, but I know it won’t. Just because it is artistic and dark, that is what I would want to win I guess.”

 

When it comes to music, John also gravitates toward the dark, heavier side of the spectrum.

 

“I listen to almost anything, but mostly hard rock, something a little heavier. I really got into hard rock by listening to Brazilian metal, John said. “Now, I have branched out a lot further. It used to be just metal, but now it is pretty much everything,” John said.

 

Speaking of music, one of the only Brewers players who is active in social media, John is currently letting his fans select his entrance song for 2011 on his Facebook Page.

 

“There are 15 songs for fans to vote on,” John said.

 

“There are eight newer songs because everyone uses older rock–songs by AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, and stuff like that–so I wanted to add some new stuff and try something different. There are also a lot of older songs on there, like Rush and Led Zeppelin. I also included Omen, a metal band– everyone kept telling me I needed to have them because they have a song called ‘The Axeman’.”

 

“Then I have a couple of theme songs…I have the Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme song, which I thought would be fun. There is also a song people will recognize from Kill Bill, but it is actually from a western from the ’60s. I also added some fun ones and some songs that were used last year for me, just to see what people think.”

 

For the complete list, and/or to vote, click here.

 


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John was a good sport during our shoot and interview, as I donned a prop from our spot that may or may not make the final cut…

 

The tall, mustached right-hander was extremely easy-going and fun to talk to on the set and, although his movie and film choices may be dark, he was nice as can be and his future only looks bright.

 

This will be a big season for John, on and off the field.  Not only will John star in one of our spots this year, but he and his wife, Nicole, are also expecting a baby boy this June.

 

“We’re very excited.” John said.

 

John also has his own bobble head, sponsored by Palermo’s Pizza/ Piggly Wiggly on Sunday, April 24 when the Brewers take on the Houston Astros at 1:10pm.

 

“I just saw pictures of it and it looks really, really cool,” John said.

 


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This is one bobble you’ll want to make sure you add to your ‘stache! Individual tickets went on sale today, so you can get tickets for John Axford Bobble Head Day now!

 

I enjoyed talking to John and I just know that the spot he’s in will turn out great, as will the other spots we shot this week. Stay tuned, boys and girls–we’re “closing” in on baseball season!

 

 

-CAIT

johnandcait@brewers.com

 

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