Results tagged ‘ Padres ’
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
The Brewers kick off a six-game homestand tonight at Miller Park against the San Diego Padres and a famous California menu item will be on the menu at the Double Clutch.
Blackened Shrimp Tacos will be featured at the Double Clutch for the next three games. A trio of shrimp tacos topped with pico de gallo, grilled pineapple, cilantro slaw and chipotle creama. The soft taco trio is served with mango cilantro rice and a lime wedge.
Priced at $9.50, this dinner will be a treat for Brewers fans looking for a taste of California.
In addition, the Spaghetti-in-a-Meatball will also be available for $9.50.
As always, the Double Clutch is located outside section 215 on the Loge Level for the three games of the Padres series at Miller Park.
Last night was filled with special memories at Miller Park. Although much of it became somewhat of a blur with everything going on, it is certainly a night I will remember for the rest of my life. It started as a normal Tuesday here at Miller Park. I was just going through my normal routine to prepare for the game, as the game carried on, it seemed as though we were setting ourselves up for history.
Mike Vassallo, Ken Spindler, Tyler Barnes and I had kind of talked about a plan to handle Trevor Hoffman’s 600th save from a Media Relations end, but you don’t want to plan too much in these situations. Sometimes you just have to let them happen. When Trevor started warming up in the bullpen we knew we had to be ready to go.
The Brewers bullpen watches with excitement as Trevor Hoffman enters the game in the 9th inning of last night’s game. The bullpen is a close knit group and you can see in this picture how excited they were for Hoffman’s big moment. (Photo: Scott Paulus)
We knew in advance that Trevor wanted his family with him on the field following the game so I went down to talk to Trevor’s wife, Tracy, and his three sons–Brody (14), Quinn (turned 13 today) and Wyatt (11). I didn’t want to jinx anything, but I wanted to make sure they were aware of the plan. Sure enough, as I’m telling them the plan, Colby Rasmus leads off the inning with a single, bringing the tying run to the plate.
A sigh of relief came over when the next batter, pinch hitter Randy Winn, grounded into a double play. It was at that point that I was sure Trevor was going to close this one out and 33,149 Brewers fans at Miller Park were going to witness history.
I ran down to the clubhouse where I met Vassallo who was waiting in the tunnel leading to the dugout watching the end of the game. We reviewed our plan just to make sure everyone was ready to go. I would help get Trevor’s family on the field; we would let the players and Trevor celebrate on the field, then grab Trevor for a number of postgame interviews. This was the order we had set: FS Wisconsin, MLB Network, our flagship radio station Newsradio 620 WTMJ, the Media Interview Room to talk to our local writers and finally, ESPN Baseball Tonight.
I couldn’t see much of the field from my place in the tunnel, appropriately about the only thing I could see was Trevor on the mound. The count was full to Aaron Miles when I saw Trevor wind up for the final pitch of the game. I heard the ball hit the bat but couldn’t see where it was hit. It was only the reaction of the crowd that allowed me to know this was it.
The out was made as the ground ball came right to Craig Counsell who threw to Prince Fielder and Trevor lifted his arms high up in the air as he was mobbed by his teammates. “Hell’s Bell’s” blasted through Miller Park and “599” was torn down to expose “600” on the sign above the Brewers bullpen. Trevor Hoffman had done it.
Jonathan Lucroy and Prince Fielder were the first to greet Trevor Hoffman following the game. (Photo: Scott Paulus)
The excitement on the faces of everyone will be etched in my head forever. The Brewers players and coaches were truly excited for him because Trevor means so much to them as a teammate, true professional and role model.
“I was so mobbed, I had no idea what was going on,” Trevor said today. “I felt like the whole crowd kept coming in on me. Prince was squeezing me so hard, it was great! I think the whole bullpen made it faster than (Todd) Coffey’s regular time. It was great to have everyone there.”
Trevor Hoffman gets carried off the field by his Brewers teammates. (Photo: Scott Paulus)
The Brewers fans cheered as a historical moment in baseball history was celebrated in their presence to a beloved player. Tracy Hoffman and the Hoffman boys ran down the field and threw their arms around their beloved husband and father.
It was only appropriate that Trevor’s family was there. His sons are a fixture in the clubhouse all summer long and Trevor has often mentioned how appreciative he is to Brewers GM Doug Melvin and Manager Ken Macha for allowing his kids and the other players kids a chance to come with them to work everyday. With school starting recently, the decision to have the three Hoffman boys was up in the air–until Hoffman’s wife Tracy stepped in.
“It was kind of a wait and see attitude,” Trevor said today. “I was more on the negative end of things. I didn’t want them to bury themselves the first week of school and fall behind on everything. Tracy didn’t care what I was saying; this is once in a lifetime. Her thought was that this is something that needs to be done together. She was right, wives are always right! To be able to share that moment together was important.”
After the on-field celebration had quieted down a bit, Trevor did his first interview with Mark Concannon of FS Wisconsin. He was presented a painting honoring the monumental save, a gift from the team, by Melvin and Macha and his family donned special 600th save t-shirts.
“I was thinking about wall space at home to put the painting; I’m going to put it on display for everyone to see,” Hoffman said. “In a couple of years I’m going to use it to remind people that it really was me! I might invite people over for a picture viewing party. But seriously, it’s a great gesture and will serve as a great memory.”
Following the on field ceremony, he did an interview with the MLB Network on their new, high-tech “Ballpark Cam.” The neat thing about both of these interviews is that his teammates stood on the steps of the dugout and watched him, showing the respect they have for not only Trevor, but also the moment. It was at this point that they too were fans.
After the on-field interviews were complete, Trevor joined his teammates for a toast in the clubhouse. Trevor has never been shy with his words inside the clubhouse during special moments like these (I can remember the speech he gave to his teammates at Busch Stadium following Jason Kendall’s 2,000th hit, it was memorable) and this time was certainly no different. He had the full attention of every single person in the clubhouse and spoke of respect for the game and respect of the team. The words were quite inspirational; it was certainly a moment that I will never forget and I know everyone in the clubhouse felt the same way.
Trevor then went to do a live interview with Cory Provus from Newsradio 620 and then to meet with the regular beat writers of the Brewers media corps. (You can watch that interview session here.) In this interview, you can really see how genuine this man really is. He has the utmost respect for the team, his teammates and the game itself. He is a true old school professional and someone who is most definitely a role model in this game.
Following the interview room, we had to get Trevor to one more interview and that was with ESPN for Baseball Tonight. After that, we let him relax. We really had him working hard last night from a media standpoint, but he did a great job and if you heard any one of the interviews he did last night, you would agree that his words were heartfelt.
After the interviews were complete, he signed a number of game-used balls from the game for MLB along with his hat from the game. (Sidenote: If you didn’t know, Hoffman keeps a ball from every save he records. He says he has a couple of “holes” from early in his career, but says he has about 95% of the collection complete. He writes the date of the save on every ball.) A number of those items will go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. He also posed with a number of teammates and staff members in the clubhouse for pictures. Those pictures are memories that will last a lifetime.
Trevor still had time for a nice photo with me following all of his media activities for the night.
I didn’t leave the clubhouse until around 11:45 p.m. last night, and when I left a number of Trevor’s teammates were still waiting for him. They wanted to share the moment with the man that they looked up to as a professional, as a teammate and, perhaps most importantly, as a friend.
Today, Trevor talked about the phone calls and texts he received from the many different people he has interacted with over his 18 year MLB career.
“The congratulatory messages were all across the board,” Hoffman said. “My voicemail was filled, 100%. Being able to speak to Commissioner Selig was big and getting a call from Robin (Yount) was a big surprise. A guy of his stature in this organization and this community…that was big, I really appreciated that one. It’s daunting to think about the time it’s going to take to get back to everyone, but I will find a way to do that.”
Trevor also learned from Brewers Clubhouse Assistant Jason Shawger last night that a highlight of the final out in Milwaukee was played on the scoreboard in between innings at PETCO Park in San Diego as the Padres took on the Dodgers.
“They are in the middle of the pennant race; their focus is stay ahead of the Giants and for them to take the time to do that was a class move on their part,” Hoffman said.
Today, it was back to business as usual for Trevor. He was out with his bullpen-mates before batting practice getting their usual conditioning work in. The number might now read 600 on the outfield wall at Miller Park, but Hoffman–as a leader on the team–has not lost his focus.
“I think it just reaffirms that this machine will continue to go,” Hoffman said today. “Yesterday, as good as it was, was a great memory. Today, we are hearing the same music we have for the previous 160 days and it’s the same feeling today at the ballpark, it just moves on. It was enjoyable and unbelievable for the moment, but, it just moves on.”
Thanks to Trevor for giving his teammates, Brewers fans and baseball fans all over the world a special moment to remember.