SALT LAKE CITY -- Tom Murphy isn't your normal, everyday baseball player. That much is clear each time he takes an at-bat.
Take last September, when in his initial cup of coffee with the Colorado Rockies, Murphy used a classic track from legendary heavy metal band Slayer. Given that most major leaguers prefer the soothing sounds of country or hyper beats brought on by any number of flavor-of-the-week pop stars, hearing Kerry King shredding while Murphy made his way to the plate was surprising to say the least.
Especially because the rookie catcher has been known to go a little lighter throughout his baseball career.
"I actually have been using Rammstein for pretty much my whole career since college," Murphy told Purple Row two days before the Rockies added him to the big league roster. "Slayer is my favorite band but I decided to tone it down a little bit so I didn't stand out too much."
Murphy and teammate Dustin Garneau, who has been known to use tracks from Pantera and Hatebreed for his walk-up music, certainly stood out anyway. But Murphy's performance at the plate over the last couple of months has completely separated him from Garneau -- and every other baseball player on the planet.
From July 1 until his promotion to the big leagues on Sept. 2, Murphy hit an absurd .442/.485/.831 with 12 homers -- and, for good measure, 12 walks -- in 168 plate appearances. He's continued his offensive onslaught since his call-up to the majors, producing six hits -- including a couple of homers -- in 11 at-bats. No player at any level of professional baseball has come close to matching his 1.340 combined OPS since the start of July.
All of that came after Murphy started the season slowly, hitting just .208/.227/.456 through June 30. At that point, Triple-A Albuquerque manager and former big league slugger Glenallen Hill began working with him on some minor changes to his offensive game.
"G-Hill and I sat down and went over some adjustments we thought I had to make mechanically," Murphy recounted. "Mentally I was in a good spot and confident in knowing what I needed to do at the plate, but mechanically I wasn't putting myself in the best position to have the ability to adjust at this level."
Murphy suddenly went from being a brief afterthought -- especially with the way Tony Wolters handled the big league pitching staff -- to an in-demand prospect, in the eyes of Rockies fans at least. But the Colorado brass wanted to see more.
"They give us an 'opportunities for growth' sheet at the beginning of the year," Murphy explained. "Typically there's about three things on there and those are the things you try to hammer out throughout the year. Basically, overall consistency -- especially behind the plate -- is what they want, and I feel like I've done that this year."
The Rockies, prior to roster expansion, had a need open up at first base when Mark Reynolds went down with a broken hamate bone. Many called for Murphy, but since he hasn't played first base -- and hasn't even worked out there, according to him -- in his pro career, the club opted to eventually call upon Murphy's Triple-A teammate, Stephen Cardullo, whose jump from independent ball to the majors has been well documented.
"We had a great experience as a team when Stephen got called up," Murphy said. "I got emotional just hearing about it. He proved himself from day one in spring training and I don't think, even from the start, that anyone expected him to play Major League Baseball."
"The fact that he's defied all those odds pretty much from the start of his college career," Murphy added, "makes you really want to root for him."
Meanwhile Murphy, who already showed off his skills at the big league level by slugging .535 for the Rockies last September, was still waiting for his next shot. But the 25-year-old native of upstate New York kept the right attitude while continuing to mash for the Isotopes.
"I don't know if you can ever be surprised," Murphy said when asked if he was shocked about the lack of a promotion as August wound down. "The big league club has had a great year this year and exceeded a lot of expectations. It's one of those things that, as a minor leaguer, you love to see happen because there's an opportunity to make an impact and get to the postseason."
"But I also understand that they have things gelling up there and maybe there's not a spot for me at this time," Murphy added. "There's nothing I can do about that other than keep trying to make them make me a spot."
Even with three other catchers on their expanded roster, the Rockies have given Murphy a chance to keep up his incredible hot streak at the plate while seeking continuous improvement behind it. Fortunately for Murphy, the Rockies have a pitching staff he's already familiar with -- and one that should make his job a little easier.
"They all have a great attitude and they want to compete," Murphy said of the members of the Rockies' rotation, most of whom he worked with regularly during his minor league career. "The guy who stands out to me the most is Tyler Anderson. He's probably one of my favorite pitchers I've ever had the opportunity to catch because he's so well prepared and doesn't take no for an answer. It's the stubbornness that makes him as good and competitive as he is."
"He's gonna find a way to do things," Murphy added. "It's very impressive and makes him stand out."
That's coming from a player who would know a thing or two about those particular characteristics.