C/o Sterling Rodas

C/o Sterling Rodas

In Play(er) of the Week, we seek to highlight outstanding Wesleyan athletes or segments of games that deserve extra attention. Patrick Murphy ’24 is a pitcher on the Wesleyan baseball team who recently won the NESCAC Pitcher of the Week award for his impressive performances in the start of the season. In his season debut on March 13, Murphy threw a complete game shutout against Gustavus Adolphus College and followed it up with a complete one-run game gem against Saint John’s University five days later. The Argus sat down with Murphy to talk about his and the team’s recent success.

The Argus: First, could you introduce yourself?

Patrick Murphy: My name is Patrick Murphy. I’m a junior here at Wesleyan. I am an economics major and a data analysis minor, and I’m on the baseball team.

A: How did you first get into playing baseball?

PM: I’ve been playing baseball since I was probably seven years old. My first ever sport was swimming, but it just wasn’t my thing. So I picked up baseball and I just love the sport. I played first base, I played outfield, I hit, I pitched. It was just something about being outside on the grass and on the dirt. I’m from the country, so that’s pretty much what we’re all about there. And I took it and ran with it.

A: Do you have a specific baseball-related memory that made you know that baseball was your sport?

PM: I think it’s a combination of numerous memories. I can remember certain teams, like my sophomore year in high school—that team was special to me because everyone gelled together. We weren’t a particularly great team. But we all wanted to be there. I wanted to win and we just enjoyed being around each other. So it wasn’t really one memory in particular, but just being a part of teams that really just made you love the sport and not want to stop playing.

A: Why did you choose Wesleyan as the right place to continue your baseball career?

PM: My sister went here, and she was a swimmer. I used to come to all of her meets here. I kind of subconsciously just grew more comfortable with this area, with the campus and the people here. I met some coaches. I talked to some professors. And it just felt like the right fit. I wanted to be close to home and wanted to go to a small school with really strong academics and a strong athletic program. And I felt like Wes was the right fit for me. 

A: How has your experience been so far as a student athlete juggling academics and sports?

PM: Last year I definitely struggled with having that balance between when to spend time doing academics and when to spend time doing athletic stuff. And it took some time. There’s a steep learning curve because, especially with COVID, I had not played a full season of any sport while juggling academics at the same time. So it was definitely a big adjustment for me. And I had some failures, but in my opinion, failure is the best teacher. So making those mistakes last year and keeping my head on straight taught me to never really make the same mistake twice, and take what you’ve learned and what you’ve done in the past with a grain of salt and just keep moving forward with those lessons in the back of your mind. So that kind of gave me the motivation this year to never really have that feeling of disappointment and doubt in myself. So I took that into the offseason and just worked my ass off. And it’s paid off a little bit now. 

A: You started the season with a shutout and then followed it up with a complete one-run game, and for those performances you won NESCAC Pitcher of the Week. What do you think made you able to come out of the offseason and have those impressive performances right away?

PM: I was obsessed with being a better player this year, after what happened last year. It would just consume me on most nights leading up to February, over winter break, in anticipation of getting a start. But in doing that, I also was preparing myself for that time, and I knew I was ready because I had put in really large amounts of work. I’m just going to the gym at crazy hours with my friends over the summer, working tirelessly just to get better. It was almost like you were letting a crazy animal out of the cage. And for that first game I wasn’t worried about anything. I wasn’t worried about who was getting in the box. It could have been the New York Mets. I didn’t care. I was just gonna go out there and throw as hard as I can. 

A: As a pitcher, you’re not playing in every game. How do you stay involved and connected to the team when you’re not pitching? 

PM: When I’m not pitching, I’m usually one of the louder players in the dugout because I’m trying to get everyone amped up and try to keep everyone focused. In every sport, regardless of the score, later in the game, some guys can get distracted and unmotivated to keep playing with their best effort. So, I’m not even playing. The least I could do is try to keep those guys focused and keep the same intensity throughout the entire game. I joke around with a few guys all the time that I would do so much to hit once in the game because I used to hit in high school. I love just hitting bombs. But I don’t have that opportunity now. So I kind of use it as a motivation for them sometimes. Saying like, “Hey, I know it’s getting old, but there’s people who would do so much for this opportunity that you have right now, so take it and run with it.”

A: So for the season to date, you guys have only played three of your 13 conference games, which means that the playoff picture will be determined by the next half of the season. So what about the dynamic of the team gives you confidence that you’ll be able to really take hold of the second half of the season and potentially have a deep playoff run?

PM: I think as a team, we’re all on the same page in that we want to win and that we know what we have to do to win. But I think sometimes we can get lackadaisical with our focus. So as an upperclassman, I try to do my part and maintain that focus for everyone. Whenever I pitch, I one hundred percent bring that focus with me, and hopefully the guys see that in me, and that translates into them doing the same. But none of us want to lose, right? I like to say that the biggest thing for me is the energy that’s in the air when you get to the dugout and to the field. Are guys hustling, are they putting their best foot forward?

We have Middlebury this weekend. And they’re a strong team. But we don’t think anyone’s unbeatable. Everyone loves to preach about other teams, because they’re playing ranked teams or they’re ranked themselves, or whatever it may be. But you can’t really have that mentality when you’re playing them because if you’re admiring them so much, you’re kind of setting yourself up to lose. You just gotta go in with the mentality of, “I don’t really care who’s in the box, or who’s on the mound, I’m just gonna do my thing.” 

A: What’s the team’s mentality or mindset right now with a lot of pressure on the coming NESCAC games?

PM: For most of the upperclassmen and the sophomores, we’re all aware that these NESCAC games are dogfights. No matter what it is, 2–1, 3–2, or 15–14. Either way, it’s gonna be a close game, and you’re gonna have to play to the last out. Nothing’s going to distract us from that. I think there’s a certain amount of pressure for everyone. But I can only speak for myself when I say that I don’t really pay attention to that. And there’s as much pressure as you put on yourself. Our coach says if you’re feeling that pressure, you tend to tense up. Being loose, throwing and hitting and staying relaxed, but staying focused is really the key. There’s some added pressure there, but obviously, it’s just another game. 

A: Is there a game or moment from the season so far, an individual accomplishment or a team accomplishment, that you think exemplifies the best of this season?

PM: I think it was [Tuesday, April 4]. We played Johnson & Wales yesterday, and we won 16–1. All around, from the hitting side or from the pitching side, everyone was just on. We were all just doing our thing, not trying to do too much, taking it one pitch at a time, and I think that just shows what type of type of team we are. No one person is going to win or lose the game. And that’s something that’s hard to see in baseball sometimes because it’s just so individual. In basketball, it’s individual, but you got five guys on the court who probably all touch the ball in one possession. But in baseball, you could be playing left field and never see the ball. So I think we’re at a point right now where we’re mature enough to realize that it’s a team effort, and we’re going to lose and win as a team. And no matter how someone does individually, it’s not going to help us win or lose the game. So I would say yesterday was a display of who we are. 

A: Last but not least, do you or the team have any pregame routines or superstitions?

PM: I have my personal pregame routine. So whenever I’m starting a game at, say, 12, I’ll get up at nine. And I would go to the wrestling room at Freeman and I would do yoga for 30 minutes to get my body loose. Then I would drink two or three coffees and wouldn’t eat anything. That gets me in a good state of mind and gets my body feeling right. And then I listen to whatever music I feel would put me in the right mood, depending on that day. And then I get to the field, do my arm routine, do stretches and stuff like that. But I don’t really like to stick to a solid routine because sometimes you get robotic, and it would throw me off there. So it’s good to adjust based on how you feel.

Before every game when the other team is taking batting practice [BP] at our field, we don’t watch them take BP. We go into Clark Hall and we just sit in Clark for the duration of their BP. And some people don’t really like that because sometimes we wake them up, but it’s a long tradition. And then after home wins, we have a victory song. It used to be “Sweet Yamz” by Fetty Wap, but our coach didn’t like that. I mean, I think it’s a great song. But now it’s “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. And personally, I’m not a fan, but whatever gets the job done for the team works for me.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

If you would like to nominate a Play(er) of the Week, please reach out to ebyerly@wesleyan.edu with either the athlete’s name and once sentence about why they deserve to be nominated, or the team, date of the game, and players involved, and the segment that you would wish to highlight.

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu

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