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Ken SugiuraKen Sugiura

Tech 1B Murray wins prestigious honor

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At end of his summer on Cape Cod, Georgia Tech first baseman A.J. Murray collected a rather significant piece of hardware.

Murray, a rising senior, was awarded the 10th Player Award, given to the Cape Cod League player who demonstrates the most dedication on and off the field. In 43 games and 161 at-bats in the most prestigious collegiate wooden bat league in the country, Murray tied for the league lead in home runs (six), was third in RBI (32), tied for second in runs and sixth in on-base percentage (.430, thanks in part to getting hit by pitch a whopping 11 times). He was 16th in batting average at .317.

“Going up there, I definitely wanted to just work on some things, especially my hitting,” Murray said. “Having more consecutive at-bats hitting balls hard, just working on my overall approach, and mainly I just wanted to enjoy playing.”

Murray compared the talent in the Cape league to ACC play, though he felt the bullpens were deeper on the Cape. Still, he showed more power than he had in his first three seasons. This past year, he hit four home runs in 223 at-bats (one per 55.8 at-bats). His rate on the Cape was one per 26.8.

Murray said that he “showed the kind of power I think I’m capable of, and to actually put up those numbers is giving me a little more confidence going into this year, and (I’m) just ready to raise the bar a little higher for what I want to do going to school.”

It didn’t hurt that the right-handed Murray faced a barrage of lefties, as his Chatham Anglers team was dominated by left-handed hitters, though Murray said he hit both sides well.

The 10th Player Award has some history for Tech. Nomar Garciaparra won it in 1993. At least three other winners of the award have gone on to play in the major leagues, Jermaine Clark (1996), Ryan Hanigan (2002) and Nate Freiman (2007). One of Murray’s Tech teammates, leftfielder Matt Gonzalez, won his team’s 10th Player Award, hitting .278 with four home runs and 22 RBI.

Another highlight was winning his team’s MVP award in the Cape all-star game with about 20 family members present who had made the trip from the Murrays’ home in New Jersey. The night was chronicled in a column featured on Sports on Earth.

“It was an amazing night,” he said. “To win MVP was pretty surreal because that wasn’t on my mind going into the game, but that was a great honor.”

Murray’s performance on the Cape brought him some attention from major league scouts after he went undrafted in June. (Murray hit .283 with the four home runs and 33 RBI this past season.) Teams with money leftover in their allotted bonus pool after signing draftees are able to make offers to undrafted players. Murray said he was contacted by some teams, but he wasn’t interested.

“I don’t think it would be enough to take me away from my senior year,” Murray said. “It’s good to be back on their radar again after not being drafted. I have plans, big goals for next year for the team and myself. I’m really excited to get back.”

Among the goals are a successful defense of the team’s ACC championship and to help the Jackets past the NCAA regional round, where Tech has been eliminated the past seven seasons. Murray said he’ll need about six or seven credits to graduate after the 2014-15 academic year.

“Going back to play baseball for Georgia Tech isn’t that bad of a deal, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’m happy to be coming back for my senior year. I feel like we’re going to have a great  year.”

Note: Tech commit Brandt Stallings (Kings Ridge Christian, Buford) won the home run derby at the Perfect Game Classic, a high-school showcase game held Sunday at San Diego’s Petco Park. … Another Tech commit, pitcher Tristin English (Pike County High), also played in the game. Both players are rising seniors.

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