Two years ago Tyler Murphy was an unstoppable force for Turlock High. He was the Bulldogs’ ace on the mound during their historic 26-game winning streak in 2013, and was well on his way to making a name for himself in the college ranks. But mere weeks before fulfilling his lifelong dream to play college baseball, Murphy’s life was forever altered in the waters of Lake Tulloch.
Instead of enjoying the day with friends on Aug. 8 2013, Murphy found himself on the wrong end of a boating accident that left him with severe lacerations to his right leg and his right hand. He was immediately air lifted to Memorial Medical Center in Modesto and rushed into surgery, leaving his future in a state of uncertainty.
Murphy endured several surgeries and months of rehab, fighting through the pain of his nerve, muscle and tendon damage with one goal in mind — to get back on the mound in a college uniform.
“Eventually I want to get back on the mound and start playing again,” Murphy said in September 2013. “I definitely want to get back if I can, so whatever I have to do I’m all for it.”
It took a year and a half of recovery, but the dream has finally been realized for Murphy.
After redshirting a year at St. Mary’s College and returning to the mound for the Stanislaus Cardinals Babe Ruth team in the summer of 2014, Murphy completed his goal of playing college baseball when he opened the 2015 season for California State University, Stanislaus with a five-inning pitching effort against Academy of Art University on Monday.
“It’s just been a long time coming. That’s what I’ve worked for my whole life, to play at the next level,” Murphy said. “It was kind of surreal just being back out there. I mean, you never would have thought what happened would have happened.”
“It’s kind of hard to explain, but I was on cloud nine; I was happy as can be. I’ve played baseball all my life and it’s a big part of me, so being out there how I want to be was awesome,” he added.
Murphy picked up the win in his college debut, recording six strike outs and allowing only one run and seven hits in the Warriors’ 12-1 win.
“There’s definitely always room for improvement, but for my first time back I was pretty happy,” Murphy said.
But while his dream has been realized, it’s still far from complete. As is his recovery process. The former Bulldog and current Warrior still has zip on the ball and is mechanically sound, but time has not yet finished healing all of his wounds.
“I wouldn’t say I’m 100%, definitely not. I still fight some pain and it’s definitely not the most comfortable thing, but to be out there playing, it kind of makes you forget about everything,” Murphy said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen. I just know I have a huge support system behind me and a great group of teammates and we’re just going to keep working hard and see where it takes us.”
As part of a four-man rotation for the Warriors, Murphy is expected to see significant playing time through a season chalked full of high hopes. Stanislaus enters 2015 with an aim to rise from the ashes of 2014, a season that saw its baseball program finished 13-35 overall and 7-32 in conference play.
The Warriors are currently 2-2.
“We’ve got some bats, we can definitely hit,” Murphy said. “Our last two games weren’t our best, but we’ve got a pretty offensive squad. And all around, I think we have a good amount of depth at all positions.”
Three of those positions are filled by former Bulldogs — James Heller, Nick Voumard and Gavin Gaffaney— which has undoubtedly helped Murphy feel at home in the clubhouse.
Stanislaus looks to move above .500 today in a double header on the road against Fresno Pacific where Murphy will again be pitching, nearly 18 months to the day since his accident.
“The sky’s the limit,” Murphy said. “Things are only going to go up from here.”