Warriors' Murphy stands tall as third-base coach
Instead of standing under a basket going for a rebound or behind the 3-point line taking a jumper, Murphy found himself in the third base coach's box -- or at least sort of close to it -- working for the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League as part of "Troy Murphy Night."
"I'm a huge baseball fan," the NBA forward said about 90 minutes before lifting his 6-foot-11 frame off the bench in the dugout and trotting to the coach's box in the bottom of the first inning.
Once there, the New Jersey native looked out of position -- literally.
While most coaches stand somewhere near the white lines painted about 10 feet to the side of the base, Murphy stood with his feet on the dirt along the warning track in foul territory, less than 10 feet from the fans in the box seats.
It seemed to be a form of self-protection for player with five years remaining on a multimillion dollar contract.
"I definitely didn't want to get hit," Murphy said after the Bears posted a 16-12 win.
Murphy inched a tad closer to the grass in the second inning and finally got the toe of his sneakers on the grass for the third inning, his last at third. He spent the fourth inning signing autographs for fans.
"We're bridging the gap between basketball and baseball," said Bears manager Chris Jones, a former major leaguer who usually coaches third base. "He is going to know the signs and give signs. It's not going to be a for-show thing. He is going to be in the mix."
The idea of Troy Murphy Night started in February, when he answered a few questions for Sports Illustrated.
One of them was what he would be doing if he wasn't playing in the NBA.
Murphy, who attended Delbarton High School in Morris Township, replied that he would be coaching third base for the Bears.
Newark assistant general manager Jim Cerny saw the response and called the Warriors almost immediately.
"I'm hoping to think of promotion ideas for the season and, bam, I see this," Cerny said.
The Warriors had no objections and Murphy, who lives in New York City in the offseason, jumped at the opportunity, even signing a one-day, $1 contract for his efforts.
The Bears set a date and included a giveaway for fans. The first 1,500 at the game got a Troy Murphy figurine.
"My mother saw it on the Internet the other day and she wants a couple," said Murphy, who actually found a pair of pants that fit him on his third try. The Bears even had a uniform shirt with the No. 1, the same number he wears with the Warriors.
Murphy had arrived at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium around 3:45 p.m, hoping to take batting practice with the team around 4. Heavy rain doused that hope.
"I was a little disappointed I was at the cages all week," Murphy quipped, adding he hasn't played baseball since he was in the eighth grade. "I would have been a little rusty."
Murphy was serious about his job. He and Jones went over signals for bunting, steals, takes and hit and runs for about 45 minutes. They also talked about when to send runners home and which runners to send.
During the game, though, Murphy didn't give many signs. The former left-handed pitcher and first baseman occasionally rubbed his arms, put his hand on the brim of his cap and clapped.
The one move he had down was the home-run handshake. The Bears hit a season-high four homers in the first three innings and Murphy got good at extending his right hand for a handshake while patting the player on the butt with his left as they rounded the base.
"The guys hit the ball real well. I didn't have to do too much," Murphy said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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