PHOENIX – In 2007, Phoenix native Ted Aust was recruited by Arizona State from Villanova. Aust, a senior transfer, was invited to the house of Pat Murphy, who was the Sun Devils’ legendary baseball coach. There, Aust met World Series-winning second baseman Craig Counsell, who was also visiting. Murphy ensured Aust would have a role in the Sun Devils bullpen once he recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Nearly 16 years later, after Counsell had transitioned into managing and was hired away from the Milwaukee Brewers by the Chicago Cubs, Murphy earned a promotion from Milwaukee bench coach to take over as the Brewers’ new skipper, the team announced Wednesday.
“There’s just something about this city,” Murphy, 64, said Thursday in his introductory press conference at American Family Field, one day after agreeing to a three-year contract to man the Brewers’ helm.
“I seem to be connected with the Brewers and Milwaukee. And then I started thinking, my kids look at what they call ‘Waukee’ as their home during the baseball season, and they know nothing different. It’s just a beautiful thing.”
Before working as the Brewers’ bench coach for eight seasons, Murphy carved out a strong legacy at ASU for 15 seasons between 1995-2009. During his tenure with the Sun Devils, his teams made the College World Series four times, while he was a four-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year. His career record as ASU skipper was 629–284–1.
Brett Bordes was a pitcher for ASU from 2003-2006 and went to the College World Series under Murphy in 2005.
“(That was) probably the greatest time, personally, for me, that I’ve ever had playing baseball,” Bordes said. “Honestly, it probably wasn’t the best team that I played on in my four years at ASU … but that ‘05 team just clicked.”
Murphy recruited tons of MLB stars during his time at Packard Stadium, including 2007 MVP Dustin Pedroia, All-Star outfielder Andre Ethier and ASU’s current coach Willie Bloomquist.
Murphy kept a loose clubhouse even when the team was losing, according to Bordes, and was a great mentor to the players not just for baseball, but for life after baseball as well.
“He showed you how to prepare and get you to that next level,” said Bordes, who played in the Baltimore Orioles system for four seasons. “So when we are going into pro ball, we knew what to expect, we knew essentially how business was handled, and how to act professionally and just show up and do your job.”
Aust, however, never played professionally but still uses Murphy’s teachings throughout his work life as the vice president of Caliber Company in Scottsdale.
“He had a funny saying where he just didn’t really care that it was anybody’s birthday and that nobody else was going to care that it’s your birthday. So get over yourself,” Aust said. “In the real world where people generally aren’t going to care exactly much about your feelings and you’re going to have to get over it quickly and just actually perform and execute.”
Even though Murphy kept the atmosphere loose, he was still tough on his players as he expected the best from them.
“We tackled a lot of the mental aspects of the game,” Bordes said, “And that was one thing that he made sure that if you don’t have the highest skill level, we’re at least going to be prepared mentally.”
In 2009, Murphy was forced to resign as Sun Devils coach during an NCAA investigation involving athlete pay and employment. The NCAA eventually found Murphy innocent, but the ASU athletic department was faulted for lack of institutional control and the team was sanctioned and banned from postseason play in 2012.
The San Diego Padres quickly hired Murphy to manage in their minor league system, where he was the club’s special assistant to baseball operations. In 2015, Murphy became interim manager of the Padres after the in-season firing of Bud Black. After the season, Murphy joined the Brewers as bench coach under Counsell. The Brewers made the postseason five of the last six seasons under Counsell and Murphy.
“It’s an honor. It really is an honor,” Murphy said of his new position. “I understand how coveted these jobs are, and I’ve had my eyes wide open for the last eight years here. And it’s a great challenge. If you feel someone has challenged you, there’s that little bit of fear that grows inside of you, and then all of a sudden you say, ‘Hey, let’s do it. Let’s do it.'”
Bordes is one of many former players who recognize Murphy’s contagious enthusiasm and how it translates to the diamond.
“The Brewers organization’s been very fortunate to have him and to continue to have him,” Bordes said. “He respects everyone and (is) really just a great person.”