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With success, Cavs' Murphy still hungry
Catcher opens 2016 season in Triple-A, one step below MLB
04/12/2016 1:35 PM ET
Murphy rounds first after his pivotal homer in the 2013 Asia Series semifinal.
Murphy rounds first after his pivotal homer in the 2013 Asia Series semifinal. (SMP Images/ABL Media)

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- All it took was one decision. In late 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays approached catcher Jack Murphy about getting some extra innings and at-bats by going to play with the Canberra Cavalry of the the Australian Baseball League, a circuit entering its third season. Murphy obliged. The rest is ABL legend.

Canberra's moustachioed backstop has become a fan favourite across the globe, from his Minor League career to Taiwanese fans via his 2013 Asia Series heroics to the adulation of Cavalry faithful. Now, he's working on his career's final step. Murphy opened the 2016 Minor League season in a new organisation with the Los Angeles Dodgers, starting at Triple-A Oklahoma City, just a step below the Major Leagues. He spoke with TheABL.com.au last month after making a big league Spring Training appearance for the Dodgers at their Camelback Ranch complex in Arizona.

On how he's turned into a legend of sorts with ABL fans
"It's been an incredible experience for me. Going down there the first year, the Blue Jays sent me out there to develop, to get better, work on a few things. We had a great team, went on a really magical run. I tell people, 'Look, if we were a .500 team and we didn't make the playoffs that year, then I wouldn't be as popular as I was there.' I just happened to have some big hits at the right time. I look a lot different than a lot of other people, and that caught on out there. The people are fantastic. I fit in really well there. I love being there. I love Canberra. I love that city. It's been a great ride for me personally down there, and I think it's nice for [the Cavalry]. Anything less than winning a championship now, because they're accustomed to my first year winning it and then winning the Asia Series, going back to the finals that season, there's always disappointment unless we win the whole thing. We've had a lot of really good teams down there and turned baseball in that city around."

On what has made him return to the ABL every offseason
"The Blue Jays left it up to me my second and third seasons that I went down there. They have a great relationship with Canberra, so they always send guys down there. Canberra wanted me, and the Blue Jays said they didn't care if I went; they would send me. I went that second and third time. To be honest, I didn't get a whole lot of at-bats during the regular season with the Blue Jays, so there are always things to work on. I'm not somebody who likes to sit still, who likes to rest. I do away from the baseball field, but I like to keep going. I like to keep pushing and keep getting better because it's a really small window, and I'm not getting any younger. Trying to go down there and refine my game as much as possible, that's what it's been about all four years but especially the last couple."

Murphy has played parts of five seasons with Double-A New Hampshire. (MiLB.com)

On the growth of the ABL over his four seasons
"It's great because a lot of the cities have grown in the league. Canberra was not doing great before my first season, and then obviously winning brings people to the ballpark. We won. We won a lot, and now they have a nice thing going there. You've seen the same thing with Adelaide and Brisbane. Adelaide had a really good season two years ago, first place in the regular season, went to the finals and lost to Perth. Now they're getting 4-5,000 people a game. Brisbane has a great ballpark. It's a lot of fun to watch [there] because it's a small ballpark, and the ball's flying out of there all the time. They've generated a nice following there. The league has definitely grown. There's definitely plenty of room for growth in the league.

"That's just like a player or a business or anything else. There's plenty of areas where you can get better. I hope that they do, and I hope that they see it through."

On how he'll look back on his ABL career when his playing days are done
"I'll look back on those teams. I look back on those guys and those moments and those teams, not my personal moments but being with those guys in the locker room after the big wins. You can't replace that. Those are the memories I have that I carry with me. Being in that locker room in Asia after we won. When we won the first game in the Asia Series, it was like we'd won a championship because no [ABL] team had ever won there before. Obviously after we beat Korea in the semifinals and then we won the championship, it was surreal. I'll remember the plane ride, four hours after the win, flying back and celebrating with those guys the whole time, getting on a bus in Sydney and going back to Canberra and playing that Thursday night and laying it to Brisbane. Those are the things I'll remember. We just had such a good run and so many good players and so many big moments.

"For us to win Asia took, with the talent that we had versus the talent that those other teams had, it took everybody on that team -- and it's cliché to say - but it took everybody on that team playing the best baseball of their life over those seven days. That's what it took. We were able to do that. It doesn't matter where it's at -- it doesn't matter what level or anything else -- when you have that experience where everybody is having that moment at the same time and playing at their highest level at the same time, man, I've never seen anything like that. Just to remember that feeling, I'll carry that with me forever."

Tyler Maun is an ABL staff writer and a contributor to MiLB.com, the Official Site of Minor League Baseball. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.