Diabetes Doesn’t Dampen Murray’s Positive Outlook for KP Nine

Ken Hamwey Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
May, 2019
Article Body: 

Focusing on pitching and hitting are a challenge for any baseball player in the Hockomock League but factor in the need to check blood-sugar levels and injecting oneself with insulin. That seems like an overwhelming burden, making it difficult to concentrate on a sport that needs a player’s full attention.
But, in Terry Murray’s case, it’s business as usual. The King Philip Regional senior, who’s been dealing with Type One diabetes since age five, handles the distraction in a positive way.
“It’s not a big deal,’’ Murray said. “It’s a way of life and it’s not going to change. It doesn’t do me any good to wish I didn’t have the condition. I’m trained to give myself shots and I’ve been doing that since I was about seven years old.’’
The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder also has to co-exist with celiac disease. He must avoid any food that contains wheat and he has to maintain a gluten-free diet.
Murray conducts about six blood-sugar checks and six insulin injections a day and at times they have to take place during a practice or a game. “I keep a bag in the dugout that has what I need,’’ he said. “I never call timeout if I’m pitching or at bat. I just grind through what’s ailing me and take care of it when I can.’’
Greg Kessler, who’s in his second year as KP’s varsity coach, encourages his right-handed pitcher to tend to his medical issues as often as necessary. “Terry is labeled ‘the heart of our team’ because he’s so uplifting and engaged,’’ Kessler noted. “When he plays well, the team is motivated and it responds. He’s a fun kid, a good leader and his personality is infectious.’’
Murray admits that, in spite of his issues, “it’s a key to stay upbeat.’’ He jokes at times and full confidence is usually on display. He likes the reference to being ‘the heart of the team’ and he embraces the phrase. “I rarely get down,’’ Murray emphasized. “I try to pump up my teammates, be loud and show confidence.’’
The 18-year-old Murray displayed a show of confidence last year against Taunton that was off the charts. He was called on for relief in the fifth inning and he shut down the Tigers’ offense. “I struck out five in 2 2/3 innings,’’ he recalled. “My pitches were on the mark, my velocity was strong and I kept the hitters off balance. We won, 5-4, and I got the victory.’’
What made the outing so memorable for Murray was Frank Holbrook’s attending the game. At the time, he was the pitching coach for Wheaton College and he was on hand to scout some of Taunton’s players.
“He liked what he saw of me and he emailed coach Kessler for some information,’’ Murray said. “Well, he later became the head coach at Rhode Island College. He called me, expressed interest and had me attend prospect day at the school. He told me I’d be on the team and that I’d pitch for RIC. I’ve been accepted and I’m looking forward to playing at the Division 3 level.’’
Murray plays first base when he’s not pitching and he’s as adept at hitting as he is on the mound. He went 7-for-20 last year and compiled a .350 batting average. On the mound last year, he was 1-2, had three saves and his earned-run average was 4.50. At Local Town Pages deadline, Murray, who’s a starter now, was 1-1, pitching KP to a 3-2 victory over Sharon then taking the loss in a 9-7 outing against Bishop Feehan. Against Sharon, he yielded only one earned run.
“Terry has a powerful fastball, he spots it well and his overall control is good,’’ Kessler said. “A curve and a slider are his other key pitches.’’
Murray has other strengths. He keeps hitters off balance and has a high baseball IQ. A contact hitter, he also hits for power. “I can improve in a lot of ways,’’ Murray said. “My velocity can be better, my arm strength can improve and I can develop better hand-eye coordination.’’
With 13 players back from last year’s squad that missed the playoffs by two games, Murray firmly believes that the Warriors can win the Kelly-Rex Division of the Hockomock League and also qualify for tourney play. “Those goals are realistic as long as we keep working hard and building team chemistry.’’
As for personal objectives, Murray hopes to improve his pitching record and lower his E.R.A. “Being a starter creates some added pressure,’’ he said, “because it’s important to be sharp in the early stages of a game so we’re in contention instead of battling from behind.’’
A native of Norfolk, Murray likes working in the rotation with senior captain David Morganelli and he also admires the play of senior centerfielder Zach Zarba. “David has great control and composure,’’ Murray emphasized. “His fastball and curve are outstanding. Zach plays with emotion. He’s a solid hitter who’s got a cannon for an arm.’’
Kessler also gets high marks from Murray. “Coach Kessler is a great motivator, has a great personality and he’s a terrific communicator,’’ Murray said. “He knows the game and is a good game-planner.’’
Murray’s style of play mirrors the way he deals with diabetes — confidence and optimism rule. He’s an amazing competitor who’s strong, even though doctors’ visits occur every three months at the Joslin Clinic in Boston and an injection every night is necessary to stabilize his blood sugar.
Before he heads off to pitch at RIC, it would be such a reward to see Murray and his KP teammates win the division crown, qualify for the tourney and go as deep as possible. The Warriors, who’ve started the season with a 2-2 record, very likely could achieve those objectives.
Those positives would be in perfect alignment with Murray’s upbeat style. And, achieving those objectives would be very deserving for a student-athlete who strives for success every day in spite of some difficult barriers.
But, Terry Murray knows how to roll with the punches.