Tyler Murphy made a name for himself at Turlock High by standing tall on the pitcher’s mound and vanquishing batters with his arm. But for the past month, Murphy has been unable to pitch, let alone stand, after a tragic boating accident at Lake Tulloch on Aug. 8 left him with nerve, muscle, and tendon damage in his right hand and leg.
The unfortunate turn of events not only cast a shadow on his future as a baseball player, it also put Murphy in an unusual position of dependency—and he didn’t like it.
Rather than accept his fate and withdraw into himself, Murphy tackled the recovery process head on. Last Friday he astonished a group of more than 250 friends, family, and supporters at a silent auction and dinner fundraiser with the fruits of his labor when—for the first time since his accident—he stood on his own two feet.
“I’m at peace with it now. It’s part of my life now, there’s nothing I can do about it,” Murphy said. “Baseball’s not really a big factor. Of course I want to play again, but I just want to be back to normal and be able to walk around again without crutches—be independent and not having to have people wait on me all the time.”
The dinner was a culmination of a whirlwind of community support given to the former Bulldog. As news of Murphy’s injuries spread, friends and strangers alike jumped to action to help raise money and spread awareness. By the time Murphy returned home, he was met with a large crowd to welcome him back equipped with signs, cards, and gifts including bats from the Modesto Nuts and Stockton Ports, a signed copy of Drew Beuerlein’s “Catching Grace” and a care package from the Boston Red Sox.
“It was almost overwhelming because there were just so many people all the time. It was amazing; I never expected all the support,” Murphy said. “It’s great, it definitely helped a lot. It’s helped me deal with the whole situation just knowing there’s so much support behind me.”
More than just support, Murphy was also met with understanding last Friday from special guest speaker Dave Dravecky—the former San Francisco Giants pitcher who was forced to retire due to cancer and eventually had his arm amputated.
“It’s pretty much the same situation except I still have my leg and my hand,” Murphy said. “He offered a lot and I still think about it a lot—how hard recovery is going to be and that baseball isn’t everything. Rehab’s going to be hard, but it’s worth it.”
While he’s come to realize that there’s more to life than just baseball, Murphy is still striving to return to the field with his mitt in hand.
“Eventually I want to get back on the mound and start playing again. I have to go through one more surgery and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back out there,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to get back if I can, so whatever I have to do I’m all for it.”
Murphy’s final surgery will be a tendon replacement in his right leg and is likely to take place at either the Stanford University School of Medicine or the University of California San Francisco. The surgery will be the ninth procedure for Murphy and will hopefully restore full movement to his right foot—necessary to not only play baseball but to walk normally as well.
Even though he can’t walk at the moment, and even though it will take a fair amount of physical therapy to do so, Murphy and his parents are encouraged by the fact that he has already beaten the odds as doctors have dubbed his survival and ability to keep his leg a miracle.
If things continue as they have, Murphy hopes to be on the campus of St. Mary’s University—where his scholarship has been held and enrollment differed until February— by next year.
“I’ll rehab here and once I start school I’ll be able to rehab with trainers there,” Murphy said. “I’m medical red-shirting my first season and then, hopefully, the next season I’ll be back and ready to play.”
“The doctors said he has three things going for him: he’s young, strong, and athletic,” Tyler’s father Tony Murphy said.
While he continues down his road to recovery, Murphy has been distracting himself by playing video games, attending local sporting events, visiting former teachers at Turlock High, and —in another first on Friday —even playing catch with his father.
“It’s just nice to be able to get out of the house because sitting in the hospital for almost a month was an eye opener,” Murphy said. “If there’s something I can go out and do, I’ll do it.”