Sometimes it comes down to simple mathematics. The Twins had too many outfielders and too few catchers. For the Yankees, the opposite was true. So, last November, the Twins traded Aaron Hicks, an outfielder, to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy. Problem(s) solved.
Murphy, who turns 25 on May 13, hit .280/.324/.394 in 294 plate appearances over the past two seasons in the Bronx. With solid defensive skills to match his bat and 32-year-old starting catcher Kurt Suzuki playing out his contract, we will likely be seeing a lot of Murphy in the near future.
I caught up with the affable back-up backstop prior to Wednesday’s game and discussed a variety of topics.
DZ: You are with a new organization for the first time in your career. What’s that been like for you so far?
MURPHY: So far, so good, man. I could tell early on in spring training that everything I was told about the organization as a whole held true. Everybody, once I got traded, said, “You are going to a great place, great humans, great team chemistry.” I’ve really seen that all. I was pretty happy with how quickly I got transitioned.
DZ: Did you know anybody over here?
MURPHY: I knew Phil (Hughes) a little bit from New York and then I knew (Eduardo) Nunez just a little bit from New York, but we never really crossed paths much.
DZ: Where were you when you found out about the trade?
MURPHY: I was in Virginia visiting a friend on a hunting trip…We went out and hunted in the morning and we usually come back and hang out during the day and go back out in the evening. I was actually taking a nap and I woke from my nap and had a voice mail to call (Yankees GM Brian) Cashman back. That was that.
DZ: Did you keep going with the (hunting) trip?
MURPHY: Yeah. Definitely didn’t cut the trip short…Just finished my hunting trip, went home and that was that.
DZ: I’ve talked to some veteran guys that have been around a little bit and they say that the first time they got traded, they took it a little more personally and then they learn that it’s just the business and it’s not about them. Did you have any issues with that?
MURPHY: I’ve always been pretty good and keeping the big picture in my mind. I think that initially, there is that shock and disappointment because you have that attachment to the first team you are with. I made a lot of good relationships over there. Like you said, you really just understand that it’s the business side of it. I took a step back and understood that it’s just a great move for my career. Once you look at it that way, then it’s easy to get excited.
DZ: What are the differences between playing in New York versus Minnesota?
MURPHY: It seems to be a little colder here (laughs). It’s great, man. I am much more slow paced than New York City is. I think it’s going to be a great fit for me. I love the fact that there are a lot of lakes, fishing and hunting here.
DZ: Being a catcher, you have different layer – learning the pitchers. What’s that process been like?
MURPHY: I think that’s definitely been one of the most challenging things so far because you are coming over to a new place and I don’t know anybody…and I am trying to get to know a whole new staff. A lot of that comes from talking to Kurt (Suzuki), talking to (pitching coach) Neil Allen and getting their points of view on all these pitchers. That’s one side of it and catching is another side of it. It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another thing to get back there and see what their pitches are doing and get a feel for them. All of that comes with time.
DZ: I read that you went to high school at IMG Academy…What’s it like going to school there?
MURPHY: I was kind of grandfathered in there just because my mom has been there since day one. She basically started back it in the day with Nick (Bollettieri)…I grew up around that place and once it was time for high school, my parents gave me the decision of whether I wanted to go to school there or somewhere else and I chose there. That’s really when my baseball took off. I committed to that. You are playing baseball everyday, even in the fall. So, it’s definitely a commitment, but so far it’s paid off. I wouldn’t trade those four years for anything.
DZ: You must have grown up around a lot of top level athletes if your mom was involved there.
MURPHY: Yeah, baseball wasn’t the most attended as far a professional athletes in the off-season, but you are definitely around a lot of tennis players, a lot of soccer teams, a lot of golfers in their off-seasons. It’s a neat place because you get a mix of all the different sports.
DZ: Do you have friends from other sports that you made there?
MURPHY: Yeah, I have a couple of friends on the European Golf Tour. A couple of friends who are playing tennis. You make some cool relationships there because if I am in class with fifteen people, ten of them are probably not from the United States. I have a lot of friends from all over the world. You don’t get that in a normal, public high school experience.
DZ: I have to ask you: why John Ryan, why not John or J.R.?
MURPHY: It was decision my parents made when I was young. “John Ryan” is just what I have always been called. Once baseball hit, it kind of evolved into “J.R.” or “Murph” which, I don’t mind either of them…It’s just always been “John Ryan”. That’s just what it’s always been (laughs).