ARLINGTON, Texas-Texas Rangers outfielder David Murphy is having a good August-finally. Murphy, an outspoken Christian, was named his team's Heart and Hustle honoree, and then celebrated this week by becoming a full-time starter for the first-place Rangers.
The starting gig means Murphy has come full circle almost exactly four years after a knee injury derailed his standout rookie season. On Aug. 6, 2008, Murphy was on pace to hit 20 home runs and drive in 100 runs when a collision with New York Yankees catcher Ivan Rodriguez abruptly ended his chances at American League Rookie of the Year.
"It's just a freak injury," said Murphy, a former All-America player at Baylor University. "There was nothing I could do but rehab it and move on."
Murphy has spent the last three seasons mostly as a part-time player, helping the Rangers win back-to-back AL pennants without uttering a word about his lack of playing time. He told me he wasn't bitter because he knew that, even as a role-player, he was living the dream of many young ballplayers. He also recognizes that God has a purpose in keeping him in Texas.
"I'm not Josh Hamilton, and I'm not an All-Star," Murphy said, "but when you're on a team that's good and twice goes to the World Series, you get some attention when you're a part of that team. I've tried to use every bit of that attention as an opportunity to minister."
Murphy is modest about his talent, but his production on the field is what forced manager Ron Washington to insert him into the lineup every day. Murphy is hitting .300 with nine home runs and 41 RBIs in just 277 at-bats this season. His .385 on-base percentage leads all Rangers with at least 200 at-bats.
The 30-year-old outfielder has carved out a reputation as a player who will run out every ground ball, and routinely sacrificing his body with diving catches. "Whether you're a man of faith or not, that's the way the game should be played," he said while sitting in front of his locker with an overflowing box of fan mail at his feet.
The Heart and Hustle Award, given out by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to a player on each team, puts Murphy in the running for major league baseball's overall winner, which will be announced on Nov. 13 in New York. Earlier this season it was the fans showing their appreciation for Murphy as he finished sixth in the All-Star voting among AL outfielders.
Murphy credits his wife, Andrea, with his conversion to Christianity in 2000. He said it all "clicked" when he realized that being a good person was not enough to get him into heaven. Now the couple shares a love for God and three children under the age of 5.
Murphy's favorite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9: "My strength is made perfect in weakness," he quoted from memory. "You're going to be challenged in life and you're going to have moments of weakness-especially on the baseball field. That's when you need to remember that verse."