Signed by the Padres on the first day possible as defined by Major League Baseball, Murray Hopley has been eagerly anticipating this chance. He is expecting to arrive in Arizona in the beginning of March but his actual travel date had not been confirmed.
It was one minute after midnight on July 2, 2004 that the Padres reached out to Hopley's agent, Trevor Jarrett. Trevor Schumm, the Padres' primary scout in Australia, had been following Hopley throughout his career and was the driving force behind the signing.
"When it was official that I had signed, I felt an enormous relief as well as enormous joy," Hopley said via email. "It has been my life dream to sign a pro contract and it was hard to believe it had come true.
Playing for Queensland in the under-18 National Championships, Murray is hard at work to make sure he is ready for the next step.
Now that he is officially on the cusp of pursuing his dream, there are mixed emotions. Leaving family and friends behind is a difficult task but the rewards are worth the initial angst.
"I am indeed nervous to leave Australia to pursue my dreams as a Pro Baseballer," Hopley admitted. "But this comes with a lot of excitement as well. It is going to be hard to leave all my family and friends for such a long period of time but I hope this will become easier as I make new friends over there."
On a positive note, Hopley will be joined by fellow Aussie John Hussey – another young player that will join the Padres this spring in Peoria. And then there are several players in the system who are originally from Australia. Lachlan Dale, James Darby, Ben Risinger and Chris Oxspring should all be through camp and they can provide a nice support system for the 16-year old.
"I have had a chance to talk to Chris Oxspring a few times and he has been great," said Hopley. "He answers all my dumb questions about what is it like? Etc…"
Hopley has actually been to the Padres spring training facility before. Last year he was sent out during extended spring training by his State Academy to workout with the Seattle Mariners. All of these tools have given him a small taste of what it will be like to be part of the squad.
Having known he would come over to the states, Hopley put a lot of focus on his workout regimen this offseason. The rigors of life in the Minors will certainly catch up with those that come in unprepared.
"The off-season has been very busy for me," said Hopley. "I have been lifting four times a week in the gym along with training most nights of the week along with playing at least two times a week. My workload did increase as I knew I had to get my body used to strenuous activity day in day out. This has been interrupted a little due to the current national titles but I should hold up ok."
Helping matter has been the support he has received from his family. The long distance bills are sure to rise but Hopley described them as "great, very supportive and comforting."
Hopley is a former pitcher that actually threw a no-hitter at 12-years old against Italy. Now, he patrols the middle infield as a shortstop, although he admits he can also play the outfield.
What does he expect the Padres to do with him? He doesn't know the answer to that but he does have his own hopes.
"My goal is to make a Rookie ball team and just give it my best for the whole
season," he said.
As for a scouting report, Hopley felt it was better to leave that up to the scouts who watch him and those who are better qualified. Modesty at 16, a rare trait.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
Padres prospect interview: Murray Hopley
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