Stars of the AFL: David Murphy

One of the most complimentary things that can be said about a prospect is that he is 'coachable.' It implies many things, a good work ethic, baseball smarts, the ability to make adjustments, and most importantly, that player is good enough that the coaches want to spend time with them. The more people you talk to you about Boston Red Sox outfield prospect David Murphy, the more you hear about how 'coachable' he is.

"When you're younger, you think you know everything," David Murphy says after batting practice in Phoenix, where his Peoria Saguaros are getting ready for another game in the Arizona Fall League, "but as you get a little older you start to realize that you've still got a lot to learn, and the quicker you realize that, the better off you're going to be."

Murphy, who celebrated his 24th birthday last week, figured it out right away. He's down here to get better, and the way he's doing that is by taking in everything he can.

"There's so many good players, and good coaches, down here," Murphy says, "and they are from all over baseball. The Red Sox have done so much from me, but down here you're hearing from different organizations, and that can really help. It's just different philosophies, and what you have to do down here is listen and learn from everybody. Something that somebody else does, or a different way of doing things, that comes from a different organization can sometimes work for you."

And while the Arizona Fall League, where roving instructors and coaches seem at times to outnumber the players, might be Murphy's Mecca, this philosophy this certainly isn't the beginning (or end), of his learning.

"What you have to realize is that you're going to be learning your entire career, and the longer you want your career to be, the more you are going to learn."

What Murphy seemed to learn most this past season was how to hit the ball out of the park. His 14 home runs in 2005 more than tripled his previous career high of four. While that part of his game is developing, it isn't a focus for the young center fielder.

"Of course I'd like to hit home runs," Murphy smiles, "but that's not something I'm going to concentrate on. I don't know about guys like Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds, maybe it's different for them, but I can't go up to the plate trying to hit a home run. It just isn't going to work that way for me."

So what is the approach?

"Down here I'm doing the things that I do best. I'm trying to go gap to gap, just hit the ball hard, and if I get a hold of one, then it'll travel."

But in the the hitter's haven of the AFL, where the league as a whole is hitting nearly .300, and shortstops are hitting four homers in a game, isn't it more pressure to put up those big numbers?

"I'm just trying to get good at bats, I've gotten a few hits, but I guess there is kind of a high expectation here. I can only control my at bats. If somebody else is crushing the ball, and I start trying to do the same thing, I end up trying to do a little too much, and that ends up being the worst possible thing. I worry about my team winning, that's the ultimate goal anytime you put on any uniform. People notice you when you're on the winning team."

The winning team. Of course, this is the 'coachable' guy is it not? So, this guy couldn't possibly be affected by rumors could he? There is speculation that Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon might be moving on. In an outfield that has basically been the same for the last five years, an opening is a big deal.

"I haven't really thought about it." Murphy says, and genuinely seems to be telling the truth.

So think about it.

"Look, that doesn't add pressure to me. If he stays, if he goes, I have to play the same way. If I'm in Double-A, or in the Majors, I have to play the same way. Making the big leagues is success, period. Starting, on the bench, whatever. Every player down here has the same goal, and every coach has the same goal. The players want to make the big leagues, and the coaches are trying to develop everybody and get them ready for the big leagues. I have to play the same no matter where I start 2006. I have to play hard, play my game, and get better. If I make the big leagues, I'm still going to have to get better once I'm there. If I start in Double-A or Triple-A, I have to get better. My goals don't change, my philosophy doesn't change. I'm here to get better, I'm always trying to get better."

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