At first, Pat Murphy seems gruff. Intimidating, even. Imagine Ron Swanson, without the mustache.
But that’s not who he is.
Cody Decker, a Padres first baseman, knows the truth.
“Oh, you know, he’s a terrible person,” Decker quipped.
“It was fun to make light of how horrible he is every day and remind him that he in no way
intimidates me. He comes off with this intimidating bravado, but no.
“He’s the most unintimidating human being in the world. Once you say that to him it’s almost like, ‘Oh no, you’ve figured me out.’
“Yeah,” he added. “I’ve got him down pat.”
Murphy, a longtime college coach at Arizona State and Notre Dame, inherited a club that lost 167 combined games in its two previous years. Murphy left Kino Stadium for the final time Thursday night as perhaps the Pacific Coast League’s top skipper.
The Padres’ final season will be remembered as much for Murphy’s influence as anything else. Consider: Under Murphy, the Triple-A club has already clinched the first winning season in Tucson since 2006. That year, the Sidewinders captured the PCL championship.
“I mean, I wanted to personally have some type of an impact for this team,” Murphy said before the Padre’s 2-1 loss to the Reno Aces in the final game at Kino Stadium.
The team will relocate to El Paso next season. “I wanted it to be a team that didn’t quit and that’s for sure, they didn’t quit.”
So, he taught the club “Murphy Ball”, and they bought in. “He’s been great,” said outfielder Ben Francisco.
“He just lets us play. He just goes out and lets us play, so we play hard for him.”
Added Decker: “He’s made a big impact and brought a different mentality to the field. Especially in Triple-A where it’s kind of easy to get bitter because you’re so close, yet so far away. It’s very easy to lose sight of what’s important and that’s winning ballgames.”
Murphy figured out pretty quickly that Triple-A baseball is more about development than winning, and he’s admitted as much. But, gruff or not, he’s not adverse to be coaching a winning team.
“I mean a lot of people point to the record (for the Padres and Sidewinders) in last 10 years,” he said.
“I know what we’ve done. I don’t have to look at the record book. But, I’m proud of the guys, the staff, and what they’ve done.”
Next year, the Padres will relocate to El Paso. Decker has never been there — he doesn’t know if he will be next year, either — but he has driven through, both ways to get to Double-A San Antonio the last couple of years.
“I’m pretty excited about. Should be fun.” Murphy, though, isn’t quite ready to talk about next year.
He hasn’t even thought about the possibility of going to The Sun City, not to be confused with “Sin City”, where the Padres will finish out their season over the next four days.
“Eh, I think a lot. But I’m enthralled with these last few games,” he said. “After that,” he added, “you can ask me what I’ll do next.”