Prospect Murphy grateful for Rangers' support
Texas tells youngster 'family first' after his brother's car accident
ARLINGTON -- On April 23, 19-year-old Conrad Murphy was hit head-on by a truck carrying dry and liquid pesticides on Route 76 in California, sustaining life-threatening injuries -- including a broken pelvis, a broken neck, two broken vertebrae, a punctured lung and damage to the top of his brain.
Murphy was airlifted to Palomar Medical Center in San Diego and is still there two months later. His father, Jim, was so stunned that he had to be led through the hospital corridors by his other son, Clark, a first baseman in the Rangers' farm system.
When the horrific accident happened, the Rangers put Clark on the first flight home and told him not to come back until he was ready.
"The Rangers have always preached in the three years that I've been with them, 'If you are a part of the team, you're family,'" Clark said. "When the accident happened, they put me on the first flight to San Diego available."Conrad was driving home from baseball practice when the truck lost control of its back wheels and drifted into Conrad's lane, completely crushing his car. It took 40 minutes for paramedics to cut Conrad out of the car. "He's a guy that didn't do anything wrong," Clark said. "He was just coming back from baseball practice -- wrong place, wrong time. He really doesn't deserve this. He deserves to get better, which he is, hopefully a full recovery. [We] just pray for him. I hope people can keep him in their prayers." The people working at the medical center told Jim that they weren't sure if Conrad would pull through. Recovery at that time wasn't even a consideration. "You know it's bad when the doctor tells you that they're not as worried about his broken neck and other severe injuries as much as his brain trauma," Jim said. A few weeks later, Conrad came out of his coma. In traumas as severe as this one, a full recovery is a long shot, but doctors and the Murphy family hold out hope that one day he can be, as Clark put it, "normal." "Right now, he's talking again. He is eating on his own, the feeding tubes have been out for a few weeks now," Clark said. "He's beginning to sit up on his own with minimal assistance, and he can walk with an assisted walker of some sort. He's really coming along well. It seems like his long-term memory is all there, except for the accident and being in a coma. He doesn't remember much of that." Conrad is making significant progress, and Clark is still there to help him every step of the way. When Conrad graduated from high school last Wednesday, it was Clark who took the stage and accepted Conrad's high school diploma to a standing ovation. "My brother has started calling me on my mom's phone every day, saying that he misses me and he wants me to come see him, so I do," Clark said. "He has called me before and told me that he loves me and he's happy I'm here. To me, there is really no other option than being here."
"The Rangers have always preached in the three years that I've been with them, 'If you are a part of
the team, you're family.' When the accident happened, they put me on the first flight to San Diego
|-- Clark Murphy|
Clark has been designated to handle all media requests, and he has become the inspirational leader of a prayer group as well. He's also involved in fundraising efforts at Conrad's high school.That the Rangers allowed Clark -- their fifth-round pick in the 2008 Draft who was batting .319 with low Class A Spokane -- to go home immediately after the accident should not be surprising. The Rangers pride themselves on being a "family organization" -- they were also the same team that recently drafted Johnathan Taylor, the Georgia player who was paralyzed in an on-field collision with their first-round pick Zach Cone. What means more to Clark is that they told him to spend as much time with his family as he felt that he and his brother would need. "I'd like to think that most organizations would react in the same way, but one of the things is, they've allowed Clark an extended stay with his brother," said Joe Longo, Clark's agent. "They are very close, so he wanted to make sure he was OK. I think some organizations, once it was determined that Conrad was OK, would have required him to come back and continue playing. The Rangers have been kind enough to let him stay by his brother's bedside." Since the day they sent Clark home, the Rangers haven't asked him when he'd be coming back. "They've made it clear that as much time is needed until next Spring Training," Clark said. "I don't think they've put any pressure on me to return. They said, 'Come back when you feel you are ready,' and they understand that family comes first. If the mind is absent, the body is useless anyway on a baseball field. Time will tell." Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said the decision to send Clark home was one that the organization did not doubt for one moment. "We're a baseball organization, and it's tough to say you're 'family first,' because there are so many demands, but we try to be at least 'family balanced,'" Levine said. "Unfortunately, it's a byproduct of having 150 kids. There are a few that have had some issues. We've tried to be extremely responsive to those and supportive."
The decision underscores just how seriously the Rangers take that title."We're asking for so much of a level of commitment from every player and employee that works for us that if we're not able to offer that environment, I think we feel as if we're not holding up our end of the bargain," Levine said. "For the level of commitment we're asking for each individual, we've got to give that in return and embrace them in times of need." The approach may have impacted Clark. The first baseman is already thinking about ways he can return to Spokane and resume helping the Indians in the Northwest League. "If I could get some time at the end of the year, hopefully my brother will be at a point where he's good enough for me to take off for a month or a month and a half," Clark said. "I'm really thankful that the Rangers have allowed me to take the time off in doing so." Those around baseball have taken notice of how the Rangers treat their players, all the way from their Major Leaguers to those who may never contribute at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "That shows that they are a first-class organization," Longo said. "It is why first-class organizations win. It's the little things. It's not a little thing to Clark or certainly Conrad or his family the way the Rangers supported Clark. They flew him out to be by his brother's bedside. It is something that goes a long way within the organization."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.