This entry was posted on 8/26/2007 2:08 PM and is filed under uncategorized.
Arizona State University baseball coach Pat Murphy has kept the great Sun Devils tradition alive over the last 13 years that he’s headed the program, and his recruiting and recognition of baseball talent have continued to produce Major Leaguers to carry on the tradition started by Sun Devils alumni like Marty Barrett, Barry Bonds and Hubie Brooks.
Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia is one of those current ASU big leaguers – along with Oakland’s Travis Buck, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier and Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Chris Duffy – that’s carrying the torch, and he’s also a guy that left a lasting impression on Murphy while he was a Sun Devil from 2002-2004.
Murphy has a gift for quips and stories, and there are no shortage of them when it comes to a player he describes this way: “He’s 5-foot-6, he’s can’t run, he’s not strong, his bat speed and his hands are tremendous because his arms are only about 11 inches long and so close to his body that he’s not getting to anything hit 5 or 6 inches to the right or left of him and he doesn’t have a lick of athletic ability.”
I'd hate to hear what he says about people he doesn't like.
Here’s a Q and A with Murphy on his favorite feisty little infielder:
Dustin is a pretty confident kid…was he always like that when he played for you at Arizona State?
PM: One time we’re playing Fullerton or something like that and he’s a freshman and he strikes out to lead off the game, which is something he rarely ever does, and I come over to Dustin and say ‘hey Dustin, how was that slider?’ and he says back to me ‘Coach…that thing is so nasty.’ Well the rest of the team heard him say that and they’re going to start thinking it’s nasty and if Pedroia can’t hit that slider then the rest of them can’t hit it either.
I pulled him aside and I said ‘Pedroia, for the rest of your life if someone asks you about a pitch you say ‘ah…it’s alright but I should have hit it.’
But now you’ve got the other side of it where you’ve created a monster and for the next three years every time…every time you asked Pedroia how the pitchers stuff was he would say ‘this guy sucks…he’s terrible.’ He’d just be screaming at the guy ‘this guys terrible…you’re terrible’…all 5-foot-6, 120-pounds of him.
So he just took the ball you gave him and ran with it?
PM: Oh my God. I’m telling you…this kid every game when we were facing a pretty good pitcher from Wichita State or Duke or something he’d lead off the game and hit a line drive and come running past the pitcher yelling ‘you better get used to it…I’m going to be hitting rockets off you all day.’ Then he hits a home run against [Mike] Pelfrey and he yells to him ’97 mph coming in and 197 mph going out’ as he’s rounding the bases. He’d just be chirping the whole game.
He’s really willed his way to the big leagues…he really has. Let’s break it down: He’s 5-foot-6, he’s can’t run, he’s not strong, his bat speed and his hands are tremendous because his arms are only about 11 inches long and so close to his body that he’s not getting to anything hit 5 or 6 inches to the right or left of him and he doesn’t have a lick of athletic ability…yet he’s a rookie of the year candidate.
Did it take you a few times watching a guy like Pedroia before you realized how good he was, or might be?
PM: You couldn’t mistake how good he was when he was playing in games and how if he had a problem within his game he would solve it: when a ball was hit in front of him he would seem to get in front of it, gobble it up every time and then get rid of it in a nano-second and boom the guy is out every time.
At the plate he’s stepping into the bucket and doing what we call ‘bailing and wailing.’ He seems to always get curveballs centered on his barrel. He had to go through some adjustments along that way to get to that point.
We’ve developed a concept that is going to be the future of baseball in 2030 and that’s corner hitting: hitting it to the left field and right field corners.
Hit it down the left field line and right field line. There are certain pitches and pitchers that he would go against and I would always tell to keep away from the middle of the field because [Dustin] isn’t strong enough to hit it over a centerfielder’s head. The other thing I would tell him is to hit it in front of the outfielders; don’t try to hit it by them but just hit it in front of them. You get too much air underneath it and they’ll catch it. I didn’t really teach him anything, though. He didn’t change anything about his game at Arizona. He’s hit the same way; he’s fielded the same way.
He’s just a throwback, this kid…his intent is very easily seen. He catches every ball that’s hit to him, he makes every throw accurately to get every out, and he centers the baseball on the barrel…that’s his game.
You say he’s a throwback…is there any player that he reminds you of when you’re watching him play baseball?
PM: I’ve been trying to figure it out and I can’t. Mike Gallego is a good friend of mine and I used to tell him that he reminded me of Gags. That used to piss Pedroia off. He would say ‘Mike [expletive] Gallego, are you [expletive] me?’ and he would say that all the way back when he was a freshman. Can you imagine a freshman in college baseball reacting like that when you’re comparing him to a Major Leaguer…but that’s exactly the way Pedro is.
He is the most unique player I’ve ever been around and I don’t put anything past him.
He moved to the big leagues and he struggled early, and I was worried about him…but the only thing I said to him is to stop being a wimp and to go out there and do it. I said to him ‘Pedro, you’re 5-foot-6, you’re balding and you’re not an athlete…how the hell are you in the big leagues? Figure that out and go get it done.’
You didn’t get to the big leagues by worrying about your swing and worrying about this thing and that thing. Just figure it out.
A lot of people had questioned that swing and whether it was too big for such a little guy…and whether or not he needed to cut it down a little. It seems like the best thing for him was to just not listen to anybody and do exactly what he’d done to be successful before.
PM: Absolutely because he has the perspective of looking at it from a 5-foot-6, 150-pound guy that’s made it to the Majors. People keep trying to look at him as a David Eckstein-type guy or something like that, but this guy is unique and he’s his own player.
You watch and look at it at the end of year and I guarantee you he’ll have 20 doubles down the right field line and 20 doubles down the left field line…that’s where he’s going to be. Sure the Monster is enticing to a hitter and I’m sure he puts them up there once in a while but his swing is right field line, left field line and once in a while hit a ground ball up the middle.
The other thing is defensively he makes about every play and makes it well. There’s a difference between just making the play and then being able to make a play and turn a double play to get two guys out.
I still haven’t even completely ruled him out of the shortstop position at the Major League level either…if Lugo goes down, he’s a guy that could go over there and make some plays. He’s just a kid that believes he can go out and do it, and it’s a great story and a big testament to his will. He just wills himself to do things.
How close an eye do you keep on what he’s doing with the Red Sox?
PM: We were in the College World Series and I saw one day that he had five hits in a game so I text him that ‘this isn’t [expletive] Little League, so go out and make it a little tougher on yourself.’
Sounds like you guys have a good relationship.
PM: We do. We’re close and we talk all the time. I kid with him and ask him if he’s seen a pitcher that’s any good since he was up there, and he’s just like ‘nah’ I said c’mon there’s got to be at least a closer or two whose [expletive] is nasty right?’ He’ll just say ‘nah.’ His buddy Travis Buck hit that home run off Jonathan Papelbon up at Fenway Park earlier this season and he’s just the opposite of Pedro.' He told me that he couldn’t believe he hit it and he said he’s up there and his knees are shaking and he can’t even believe he’s in the game against Mariano Rivera or Papelbon.
You ask Pedro how their [expletive] is and he’ll just say that those guys suck and that they’re terrible. He’ll say they all throw terrible.
Was it tough watching Pedroia struggle at the beginning of the season?
PM: It was really difficult. I would just tell him that I believe in him so much and wouldn’t put anything past him. I’d just tell him to remember how he got there. I didn’t do anything for him. He was a great player when he got here and he just made me a better manager.
Here’s our first meeting: he walks in and I’m in this little cubby hole office that I have in the stadium and he’s just got this plain white cut-off undershirt on. He walks by and he’s this pale white kid who is about 5-foot-6 and 130-pounds and he’s this big hullabaloo recruit. People are coming up to me and going ‘this is your big recruit shortstop?’
I’m like okay and then Pedroia walks by, flexes and then says ‘Hey Murph check out these guns, man.’ The guy has the biceps of a six-year-old, he has no business wearing a shirt with cut-off sleeves and I’m getting blinded by the shine from the head of a college freshman that’s going bald; then he just proceeded to go out and make every play.