MINNEAPOLIS -- It was an open-the-door, let's-get-to-know-each-other, good-job-young-man, give-everyone-our-best-good-wishes, hope-to-see-you-soon, wave-goodbye, close-the-door type of encounter for prized Indiana right-handed pitcher Brandon Murray and Perfect Game on Thursday afternoon.
Murray, an impressive 6-foot-4, 200-pound top pitching prospect from Hobart, Ind., zipped in and out of the 2013 Perfect Game National Showcase at the downtown Metrodome Thursday afternoon, staying just long enough to most likely improve on the No. 214 ranking (class of 2014) he came into the showcase with. It should be noted that this is the first Perfect Game event Murray has attended and therefore his first exposure in front of the PG scouting staff.
"I really think it's going to be a fun time," he said before going out and working the first two innings for the PG Navy team in the 2013 PG National's opening game Thursday afternoon. "I'm looking forward to coming out here and just play the game and meet some new people; play hard and see how it goes."
The 17-year-old Murray, traveling alone, flew into the Twin Cities Thursday morning, threw his two innings and flew back home to Hobart (through nearby Chicago) in the early evening. He was hoping to get a good night's sleep in his own bed Thursday before leaving for central Michigan on Friday to take part in a tournament with his summer ball team, the Region Storm.
Though he was here barely long enough to work up a sweat and pound an energy drink, it was a worthwhile stop for Murray; his first pitch of the short outing was clocked at 98 mph. A short PG scouting report noted that:
"Murray ran his fastball up to (98), sitting 92-94 in his two innings of work. Aside from his velocity, the movement on his pitches that he threw made Murray that much harder to hit, throwing a sharp break slider that was up to 81, sitting 76-78, and a 81/82 mph change-up that showed good fade and had a good feel for it. He also showed plus arm side run on his fastball."
Murray was born and raised in Hobart, a city of almost 30,000 folks located about 40 miles southeast of Chicago. From a sports standpoint, Hobart might be best known as the hometown of former professional baseball player Larry Bigbie, the first round pick (21st overall) of the Baltimore Orioles in the 1999 MLB amateur draft, and former old-time NFL players and brothers, Bob and Rudy Kuechenberg.
The only child of Jack and Jan Murray, Brandon was drawn to sports at an early age, playing basketball, baseball, soccer and football; he stuck with basketball until his freshman year in high school and football up until his sophomore year. He was also into "action" sports like skateboarding and snowboarding.
"I'd really do anything that I could do to stay active," he said. "Obviously, I really love the game of baseball and I'll play anytime I can get my hands on a ball or a bat."
Murray trains at the Cy Young Academy in Crown Point, Ind., where he works with former professional pitcher Jordan Smolar, the owner of the academy. He also works with his Hobart HS varsity assistant coach and Region Storm head coach Dave Waddell.
"When I was younger, I threw the ball well and I threw the ball hard," Murray said. "When I was in eighth grade I started going (to the Cy Young Academy) and I've been working there ever since; still going strong with them. I started training with them and got into a program where I would with them and go and throw with them. I've been satisfied with my results and I hope to continue making progress."
Region Storm Baseball is a travel ball organization based in northwest Indiana that usually travels to play on college campuses throughout the summer. Among the Storm's planned trips this summer is one to the University of South Carolina.
"I've been playing with these guys for awhile," Murray said. "It's kind of a tight-knit group of guys -- a lot of guys from my (Hobart High School) team; we've played together since we were really young. Last year, when I was a sophomore, we started seven sophomores (on the Hobart HS varsity) -- the 2014 class -- and we've got this travel team that has been around for awhile with a lot of guys from our city and then some out of city guys. We've got a good team and it's going to be fun."
While pitching this spring, Murray reportedly threw a fastball that topped-out at 95 mph and sat consistently in the 91-94 range. He identified his slider as his best secondary pitch and also throws a changeup; he'll mix-in a curveball from time-to-time.
Pitching for Hobart High School, he compiled a 4-3 record with a 2.51 ERA in 58 2/3 innings, striking out a school record 111 batters with 37 walks. As a sophomore in 2012 he was 6-4 with a 3.03 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 55 walks in 62 1/3 innings. With another season to go, Murray already holds his school's career strikeout record.
"It's a luxury that we are extremely fortunate to have, a guy with that kind of natural ability," Hobart head coach Bob Glover Jr. told post-trib.com, an online publication produced by the Chicago Sun-Times, in an article published May 4.
"When you begin with a guy like that (who is) going to put a real limit on the number of balls that the other team is going to put into play, that is a great starting point for your defense in terms of being able to keep the other team off the boards. If they can't put the ball in play consistently, it makes it all that much more difficult for them to score."
Again, it's worth noting that this was his first experience at a Perfect Game event, and he certainly was invited to get his feet wet at the most prestigious of all the showcases on the PG schedule.
"I haven't really been a showcase circuit guy at all; I haven't been out to many events and I've kind of stayed local," Murray said. "I've started to work hard getting into high school and working on my velocity as a pitcher. I think the biggest key is that I've become a pitcher instead of a thrower.
"The biggest focus that I think has really set my career off is to be a pitcher instead of a thrower, find out who I am, stay within myself, go out there and pitch my game and do whatever I can to help my team win. I feel like that's just what's helped me get to where I am today."
Murray committed to South Carolina during the fall of his junior year after also considering offers from schools from the Big Ten and Midwest Athletic Conference, along with schools like Louisville and Kentucky. Waddell, Murray's travel ball coach and assistant high school coach, graduated from high school with Jerry Meyers, the Gamecocks' associate head coach and pitching coach, so there was a natural connection.
"I was fortunate to go down for one of their camps and I threw for them, and they offered me that day," Murray said. "A couple of days later I decided it was a good fit for me. The coaches were all really great people, (the campus is) beautiful, the facilities are second to none, and I feel like South Carolina is going to help me excel on the field and academically."
Before Murray took the hill Thursday, before he had to catch a plane back home to complete his whirl-wind trip to the Twin Cities, he told PG exactly what he hoped to accomplish at the National Showcase:
"I obviously want to come in and play the game as hard as I can -- give it all I can, play to the best of my ability and try to have fun at the same time," he said. "I want to take advantage of the opportunities that Perfect Game has obviously blessed me with today."
Give everyone our best good wishes.