Before he could prove himself worthy of receiving a pro baseball shot, Sean Murphy had to survive the game called hopscotch.
From Gloucester County to Salem County, a pair of New Jersey junior colleges, to High Point, a Division I school in North Carolina, to Keystone College, a Division III school in La Plume, Pa., about 12 miles northwest of Scranton.
Know when statements become cliches? When they prove, over a long period of time, to be very true.
If you can play, the scouts will find you.
They found Sean Murphy, a 6-6, 215-pound righthander out of Fishtown (Thompson and Palmer) and North Catholic High (class of '06), and tomorrow, having already signed his contract and flown to Phoenix, he'll participate in a minicamp that will determine the site of his first professional assignment in the Oakland A's farm system.
Wednesday, the A's plucked Murphy in the 33rd round of the first-year player draft.
His head's still spinning.
"This is all so awesome," he said. "I've been waiting for this my whole life. It finally happened. I'm filled with emotion."
Predraft, Murphy had been hearing primarily from the A's and Mariners. No one offered guarantees, but he felt pretty confident his name would be called . . . Well, at first.
"After we got through Day 2 (first 30 rounds), I was kind of down," he admitted. "I knew I had the stuff, but it wasn't happening. I even called the A's area scout, Marc Sauer.
"I said to him, 'Listen, I'm so anxious. I can't sit around and wait anymore. Are you guys going to pick me up?' He said there were still a couple names ahead of mine on their list, and that he couldn't give me a 100 percent answer.' . . . Well, now I'm depressed."
But as noon arrived Wednesday, there was Murphy, parked in front of his college-apartment computer, paying attention to MLB.com's coverage. Thirty-first round. Nope. Thirty-second round. Nope . . .
"I was staring at the ceiling," he said. "Just thinking that somehow this had to happen. I started praying. Then I was calling my buddies. 'Yo, say a prayer for me, will ya?'"
Thirty-third round . . .
"When I heard my name, I went crazy! Just jumping and up and down!" he said. "I bawled my eyes out, immediately. Then [Sauer] called to say, 'We just picked you up.' I was so excited.
"Right after that I called my mom [Lorraine]. She works in a deli. It was lunchtime in there. Real busy. I told her, 'Mom, I just got drafted!' She was screaming. Then she told the whole store and everybody went nuts.
"Know what, though? The whole thing didn't really hit me until I came back to Fishtown. My mom put balloons up at the house. People were driving by, beeping their horns, yelling out congratulations. It was like, 'Wow, I'm really going to be a pro baseball player.'"
In '06, North finished 5-9 in the Catholic League Northern Division and Murphy was honored on postseason all-star teams for his play at third base. He saw himself as a pitcher first, however, so after he barely got near the mound as a freshman at Gloucester County, he transferred to Salem County. In the fall of '07, he caught the eye of High Point coach Sal Bando Jr., "and he offered me a scholarship on the spot," Murphy said.
The '08 season saw Murphy go 1-2 in 12 games (eight starts) with a 4.76 ERA and a better than 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (39-11).
"But then Bando got fired and my scholarship kinda got lost," he said. "I couldn't afford to keep going there. I wanted to play for a good program not far from home and, thank goodness, I was put in touch with [Keystone coach] Jamie Shevchik. Everything worked out from there."
In all, four Keystone players were drafted this year. (Frankford product Esteban "Shortie" Meletiche, the second baseman, is being eyed for next year's draft. His middle infield partner is Edison grad Edwin Padua.)
"It's a real good program," Murphy said. "Scouts are always at our games."
Murphy this year went 6-3 with a 3.22 ERA. In 13 appearances (11 starts), he fanned 56 in 64 1/3 innings while allowing 63 hits and 20 walks.
With the A's, he'll be assigned to a low-level team in Phoenix or Vancouver.
"I want to put Fishtown on the map," he said. "I'm not the only good player from there. There are tons of others. They just need a chance.
"I was just throwing the other day with a kid named Danny Hart. He's a big kid, too, and he can throw. He was home-schooled this past year and now he needs a college to go to. He doesn't really have the connections . . . "