Tough Coach

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But an umpire stunningly called a balk on Zinicola, allegedly for not coming to a complete stop before he delivered the pitch.

That automatically allowed the winning run to score.

It was an unthinkable way to lose, and no one in attendance would have been the least surprised to see Murphy (or any other coach with a pulse) to come unglued.

Murphy somehow maintained his composure.

"I know I'm an asshole, and I wanted to act like an asshole after that guy hosed us," he says, "but I just couldn't be an asshole with my kid watching me from a few feet away. If that's a sign of growing up, I guess I'm growing up. Holy shit!"

Sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman's explanation of the telltale moment is to the point: "Murph wanted his son to see the father he wanted him to see. That's a beautiful thing. In the past, he knee-jerked everything."

By the way, the Sun Devils swept the next two games at Fullerton and made it to the College World Series in Omaha.

It's a few days before ASU leaves for Houston and the tough regional headed by Rice University, the number-one team in the nation in most polls.

Murphy watches from the dugout as his squad goes through its paces, commenting loudly whenever he feels the spirit.

"It's a beautiful thing, a nicely turned double play," he tells his infielders. "No one's in a hurry. Moving like ballerinas. I mean that in a good way."

He takes pitcher Pat Bresnehan aside and gives him a pep talk:

"God gave you a gift with that body and that arm, but you can't throw your shit right over the middle of the plate. Think about throwing filth."

He bellows out to no in particular, "Tournament team! Whoo-hoo! Now you can officially be prima donnas. I can't wait to kick you out of practice and get some coffee and bagels. You're all spoiled kids. Where are the street kids?"

One of ASU's third basemen tries in vain to scoop up a ball barehanded.

"Hey, we're gonna be playing the number-one team in the country," the coach yells over at him. "Bare hand ain't gonna help you. Only time a bare hand is good is after midnight."

That one cracks everyone up.

Murphy opens a greeting card, with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, circa 1860.

He reads it aloud for everyone within earshot to hear:

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

"You guys hear that?" he asks his team. "Whoooh! Tiny matters! Now that's something to fuckin' think about!"

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin