Best summer ever?
Rio Rancho High School baseball coach Ron Murphy’s had a lot of summers, one every year in his 53 years on the planet, but the summer of 2013 has got to stand out.
Even before the summer began in June, Murphy had a good year under his belt: He claimed his 300th win as the only coach the Rams baseball team has had during the APS Metro tournament in March, won by RRHS, and the Rams later won their final six games of the season, the sixth being a 4-3 thriller over Carlsbad in the Class 5A championship game at Isotopes Park on May 18.
Murphy was named the state’s baseball coach of the year by nmpreps.com and he’s in the running for the National Baseball Coach of the Year from the American Baseball Coaches Association; Murphy is the District 7 Coach of the Year and is vying with six other districts’ coaches of the year.
That award will be handed out during the ABCA’s convention in Arlington, Texas, in early January.
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind year with my family and the success they’re having,” he began. “(Daughter) Amber is a competitor her whole life and she had to find something to compete at again and she has; she competes (in bodybuilding) in El Paso a few weeks from now. She won a trophy her first time ever in competition, which was kinda neat.”
His oldest daughter, Valerie, a one-time teammate of Amber Murphy on the Rams’ volleyball team — each has two championship rings from playing on state champions — is married and gave her dad a grandson, Jaedyn, almost 3, to keep Ron from thinking his coaching career may have to last even longer.
It would be easy to think of Murphy coaching the Rams baseball team until his son Tyler graduates; Tyler is headed into fifth grade this week and if he is good enough to make the varsity as an eighth-grader, that’ll keep Ron Murphy in the dugout through the 2021 season, which could mean another 150 or so Rams victories.
“(Jaedyn’s) already a baseball player; he can stroke a ball, so it’s fun playing with him. He’s ready for T-ball already — he can hit live pitching.
“My goal was to stick it out for Tyler, but now Valerie wants me to stick it out for Jaedyn,” Murphy said. “I don’t know how many years I have left, but, obviously I still love the game of baseball, so it’s hard not to be around it.”
Young Tyler is already making his presence known on the diamond, where he’s seen wearing No. 35 as the Rams’ batboy to No. 35 on his Cibola Little League all-star team. He’s probably the only fifth-grader with championship rings. (Ron Murphy wore 35 when he played high school baseball and football; his daughters wore 3 and 5 when they played volleyball.)
“He idolizes these kids — these are his role models and they’re like big brothers to him,” Murphy said. “He just loves being around these guys.
“What a year he’s had, with the USSSA; he did a great job. And he got to go to Farmington and play with a team there, met some great people, (and) got to play with coach (Mike) McGaha’s son from Piedra Vista (High School), and coach McGaha got to coach him a little bit,” Murphy said. “That was awesome, watching Mike coach him. He did real well at the Triple Crown World Series — I think he went 15 for 20 up there.
“And then he got to participate in the Team USA trials (in late July), and what an experience that was. To be honest, it was the first time they ever did an 11U team. … Just to see him progress as a baseball player has been a lot of fun – and to have him at my side, with everything I do in baseball.”
Like Kevin Costner, aching to “have a catch” with his dad in the movie “Field of Dreams,” Murphy said he gets a lot of enjoyment before RRHS games at Isotopes Park, where he gets to hit fly balls and grounders to Tyler, who plays shortstop when he’s not pitching.
Back to Ron Murphy and more Summer of ’13 highlights:
“We got to go to a Yankee game. They beat the Dodgers.” (Tough assignment for a lifelong Mets fan. “The Mets were out of town,” Murphy noted.”)
Visiting Fenway Park; the BoSox were out of town but he got a tour.
Coaching a 12-year-old baseball team in Puerto Rico, which went 6-2, and visiting the Puerto Rico Sports Museum. “My biggest thrill, when I do go to Puerto Rico, is seeing that statue of Roberto Clemente in front of that stadium,” Murphy said.
Attending an Orem Owls ballgame while in Utah, “a nice little stadium,” Murphy said.
Reuniting with one of the former Sandia High ballplayers he coached, Lance Moore, now coaching baseball at Provo High School and a guy who won his 200th game this past season. “I’ve never seen him since high school,” Murphy noted.
And, lastly, depicting how baseball is a common thread in Murphy’s life, when Tyler suffered a burst eardrum and was taken to a local hospital before Team USA trials in Sandy, Utah, and was treated by Dr. Jeffrey McNally — the son of former big-league pitcher Dave McNally.
“Everything we do is related to baseball,” Murphy admitted.
The Murphys returned home from Utah late Saturday, and early the next day, he was at his stadium, watching the Little League Juniors regional tournament.
Feedback on the facility was great, Murphy was happy to hear, from fans and coaches.
Murphy knows his summer sojourns wouldn’t be possible without his right-hand man, assistant coach Ray Chavez.
“I’ve got a coaching staff that’s second to none,” Murphy said. “(Chavez) is just amazing — he’s out here all the time. I mean, he’s literally out here more than me. He runs the summer program … he does everything in the summer.
“To have a guy like that around sure makes my summer a lot more enjoyable,” Murphy said. “Thank God for him, I have time to spend with my family, and not have to worry about Rio Rancho baseball. And I don’t — I’ve got complete faith in him, 1200 percent.”
Chavez, with Murphy in the Rams’ program for 12 years and the current pitching coach, said it’s been great to work for him.
“I’ve learned a lot from him. It’s been a great honor to work for him. He’s a players’ coach — he’ll do anything for those kids,” Chavez said. “It’s great to be associated with him — I’ve learned tons.”
“Ron’s a really good baseball coach,” added Rio Rancho Public Schools Athletic Director Bruce Carver. “He lives it, breathes it, eats it and sleeps it.
“He’s built that program over here and it’s been good to see him win his third — a lot of guys would be happy to win one. He built a really strong program from the ground up,” Carver said.
Despite all the accolades, rings, trophies and tutelage Murphy’s received from big-league managers and former players at the ABCA conventions, he said his biggest thrill is watching that little 35.
“He’s twice the player I was at that age,” he said. “Sitting in the stands, and watching him and being part of him growing up and playing the game of baseball supercedes any national coach of the year award, it’s better than Puerto Rico — it’s better than anything.”