“He showed me he was going to do everything he could to be the best he could be,” said Alexander, the former Jacksonville manager. “There are guys who work hard and then there are guys who work harder than those guys. I don’t know that I’ve signed a kid out of high school that works as hard as Murph. Those guys are special … that’s Daniel.”
Murphy was 16 years old when Alexander first scouted him as junior at Englewood High School in Florida.
“I couldn’t see him playing in the major leagues at that point,” Alexander confessed. “But what we didn’t understand, and it took a couple years, was to see how bad he wanted it. He had a good work ethic but as he progressed it intensified. He understood that if he worked hard and put the time in, he would get better. When he saw what was happening — I won’t say ‘obsessed’ — but a notch below that.”
As I wrote in 2009, Murphy wasn’t going to be selected in the major league draft by working hard. Giving 100% wouldn’t cut it. Hitting a baseball is not a gift Murphy was born with, it’s a skill he’s honed behind an exceptional will to succeed. That intangible is what makes Murphy an exotic breed of baseball player.
“That’s the difference,” said Alexander. “He’s like a sponge. He wants to learn and he will ask question after question. A lot of hitters are like, ‘Leave me alone, I got my own little thing going. Don’t mess with it.’ That’s not Daniel. He wants to know. He wants to understand. I’ve seen him line drives, balls he’d just smoke, and he’d be upset with himself because he didn’t have the right spin on the ball coming off the bat. That attention to that kind of detail is what makes him different.”
Still, it took Murphy years to develop into the hitter we saw during the 2015 postseason with the New York Mets and throughout 2016, his first season with Washington Nationals.
Tebow, who worked with Murphy on hitting over the off-season, has a great mentor but don’t expect him to develop into a Murphy-like hitter anytime soon.