Owen Murphy had a rare break in early June.
The Riverside-Brookfield senior pitcher/infielder had played the leading role in a historic season, guiding the Bulldogs to a Class 4A regional title – the program’s first 4A regional championship.
Murphy, a Notre Dame recruit with extraordinary pitching and hitting skills, had a few days off before heading to the MLB Combine in San Diego from June 14-20.
Riverside-Brookfield coach Dallas Till wasn’t expecting to see his star player before he left for San Diego, especially at his 9-year-old son’s youth baseball game in Elmhurst.
Murphy, a consummate team player, wanted to offer some support and encouragement to Till’s son, Dayton.
“Owen’s going to the MLB Combine in a week, but he shows up to watch my 9-year-old son play,” Till said. “Owen reached out to me and facilitated about 10 to 12 of his teammates to attend. He was the first one to reach out to me. That epitomizes who Owen Murphy is. Owen stayed there the entire game, cheering when my kid came up to bat and rooting for him with his other teammates. He’s developed a special bond with my kids.
How did young Dayton respond to a possible future Major League baseball player cheering him on during the game?
“[Dayton] bats ninth in the order, but he went 3-for-4 that game,” Till said. “He was super-charged by the presence of Owen Murphy. That was super cool. My 4-year-old recently was trying to bat like Owen. That just shows you what kind of mark and legacy Owen left at our program and school.
Murphy’s legacy definitely is not purely measured by statistics. His worth to the program extends beyond numbers, with several youth players always asking for autographs.
“It’s great what the team has done the last couple of years,” Murphy said. “It’s great to see kids tune into my career and hear that some more kids are playing baseball at Riverside-Brookfield because of what our team did. That means so much to me. It was fun signing autographs and great to always have big crowds come to our games and put up numbers and do it for the community.”
Murphy, the 2022 Suburban Life Baseball Player of the Year, posted some big numbers that attracted a lot of attention over the last two seasons. In 36 games this season, the right-hander finished with a 9-0 record with six complete games, including two perfect games and five shutouts. He struck out 137 of the 194 batters he faced, allowing just 10 hits and walking three to end with a 0.12 ERA. His 75-RBI season ranks second all-time in Illinois High School Association history.
At the plate, Murphy’s prodigious power often helped his own cause. He smacked 18 home runs in 143 at-bats. He struck out just six times to finish with a 1.288 slugging percentage.
“Owen’s a once-in-a-career kid,” Till said. “We’re honored to have Owen as part of our program. He left a legacy at our program and school. He’s the best player. Before him, we feel we had a good program, but because of what he’s done, he’s brought even more notoriety to our school and program. Because of him, we get more respect when it comes from seedings and rankings.
“When you have a player of that magnitude, it opens eyes and people are always aware. He put us in the spotlight and helped others on the team get noticed by colleges.”
Murphy, who belted three grand slams and tossed four no-hitters this season, is battling a new opponent this offseason: his future. Murphy said he’s grappling with his emotions leading up to the MLB Draft on July 17. His decision is further complicated by Notre Dame advancing to the 2022 College World Series.
“We will see what happens,” Murphy said. “It’s all up in the air. Teams are trying to gauge things. I was asking a lot of questions and talked to a bunch of people. Until the draft, I might not know how many clubs are interested. It was exciting to be in San Diego. It’s a different feeling. I’m just blessed to be in this position. I’m enjoying the ride. The pressure is all off.
“I’ve always loved baseball. I’ve always wanted this. I never really had an epiphany moment that I realized I made it. I just kept playing baseball for the fun of it and succeeding. It’s been a fun ride.”
Till said he was constantly amazed that Murphy’s humility and ability to perform under pressure matched his next-level talents.
“What he did in a short amount of time after he missed an entire season and a third because of COVID is amazing,” Till said. “I kind of marveled at the fact he had so much pressure to perform. One game, against DePaul Prep, he had 60 [radar] guns on him. He acted like no one was there. I’ve been blessed with some pro-caliber players, but he’s solidified himself as the best player in R-B history. He’s earned that right.”