By Gideon Rubin
It was during a breakout senior year at Torrey Pines High that Taylor Murphy first popped up on the radar of professional scouts.
Shortly after graduation, Murphy was selected by the hometown San Diego Padres in the 40th round of the June 2011 amateur draft.
He declined, honoring a commitment to the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
Three years later, Murphy, who earlier this year completed his junior year at Pacific, got another shot at professional baseball.
And this time, he pounced.
Murphy was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 18th round of the amateur draft. He was the 548th overall pick in this year’s draft.
His improved draft status makes reaching the majors more realistic.
“This time it was more feasible that I was actually going to commit to it and go do it,” Murphy said. “I was going to give pro ball a shot.”
Murphy’s draft stock skyrocketed during his junior year at Pacific. The Tigers’ right fielder was named to the All-West Coast Conference honorable mention team after batting .315 with five homers and 34 RBI in 53 games.
His junior campaign followed two seasons that did not go well from a baseball standpoint. He batted just .232 his freshman year and .211 as a sophomore.
Murphy underwent surgery for health problems that helped get his career back on track.
“Things started clicking for me this year, I started playing the way I should be playing,” he said.
“I struggled at first, but this year I found my potential again, and I definitely feel that I’m on the upswing now.”
Murphy has carried that upswing into the early portion of his professional career.
In his first two months since being assigned to the Class-A Mahoning Valley (Niles, Ohio) Scrappers in the New York-Penn League, Murphy is putting up big numbers.
Through his first 26 games, he was batting .315 with three homers and 14 RBI.
“I’m just trying to carry over what I was doing at Pacific this year, keeping it loose and not taking myself too seriously and just having fun with the game,” Murphy said.
Baseball hasn’t always been fun for him, though.
He credits a solid support system, which includes his family and the coaching staff at Pacific, with helping him get through a difficult first two years of college ball in which his health issues and subpar performance weighed on him.
“Using ‘the village’ to make it through that whole experience without having to rely exclusively on myself helped me a lot,” Murphy said.
Among those he turned to was cousin Geoff Blum, a former major league infielder who has mentored Murphy practically since he was a toddler.
“When I started playing Pony League he’d always be there for me when I had questions about the game,” Murphy said. “He’s always been there to text or call or meet up with at all the family events (so I can) just pick his brain.”
Murphy credits Blum with helping the transition to pro ball seem less daunting.
“Just having somebody that close to the game in the pros made it feel accessible and not so far away,” he said.
Murphy acknowledged experiencing adversity from a baseball standpoint even before he went to college.
He didn’t distinguish himself until winning the starting shortstop job his senior year. He batted .345 (45 for 155) that year in 37 games as an everyday player.
As a junior, he batted .286 (16 for 56) in 26 games.
Unlike most of his college peers who were standouts at their programs, Murphy came out of a Torrey Pines program in which standing out was no easy task — even for a player who would soon go on to join the professional ranks.
“It was definitely a competitive team,” Murphy said. “Getting to play shortstop for that team (senior year) was great.”
He believes his high school experience helped prepare him for future challenges.
“The adversity and the failure I went through at Torrey Pines definitely helped prepare me for endeavors at Pacific and now in pro ball,” he said.
Murphy said he never regretted walking away from an opportunity to play professionally right out of high school.
He majored in business administration at Pacific.
“I knew I made the right decision,” he said. “Being a late-round draft pick out of high school, that wasn’t going to be enough to pull me away from a good scholarship.”