Rio Rancho High School baseball coach Ron Murphy has been conducting baseball camps for youngsters a long time, but even he was amazed at the turnout on Nov. 11, when 182 kids showed up at his ballpark to learn more.
And that learning isn’t all about baseball, Murphy wants kids to know.
Before the camp, which attracted 102 kids in grades 6-8 and another 80 in K-5 — “It’s amazing,” he beamed — the youngsters stood in lines, caps over their hearts, for the playing of the national anthem.
It’s part of the Rio Rancho way, just as no caps being worn backward, a la Ken Griffey Jr. style of the 1990s. After all, people should realize the bills of those caps are intended to keep the sun out of your eyes, not off your neck.
Also part of that entrenched “way” is having Rams ballplayers participate and lead drills in hitting, bunting, fielding, throwing and base-running. Murphy said that, even though Rio Rancho Public Schools students had the day off for Veterans Day, all 40 or so players in his program showed up to lead those drills and, hopefully, serve as mentors for the greater good of the community.
“All our kids are out there working,” Murphy said, yelling a “Way to go!” to varsity catcher Josh Boyer, showing the younger set how to approach and race beyond first base. “I didn’t tell ‘em they had to be here; I didn’t have one kid tell me ‘no,’ and my whole coaching staff (less Gino Satriana) is here.”
If it seemed like deja vu to his ballplayers, maybe that’s because, in Murphy’s estimation, “90-95 percent of the kids in the program have been to one (of my camps).”
In the long run, the results pay off: Murphy is the state’s winningest prep baseball coach, his facility is arguably the best high school facility in the state, he’s won three state titles with the Rams and he continues to crank out players to colleges and universities — to the tune of close to 20 in the past three-plus years.
Not all 182 kids, including a few girls, will someday become Rams or even, across Northern Boulevard, Cleveland Storm players. Murphy takes in anyone that registers and gets his/her folks to cough up $30.
“We’re here to help every kid,” he said, knowing his two grandsons were among the day’s turnout and his oldest son, Tyler, probably went to more baseball camps than he can count — and is now playing at Texas A&M-Texarkana.
Murphy pauses during his ride on a gator, having seen some kids walking to their next drill: “Hustle, hustle, hustle,” he shouts. “No walking on the field. Baseball players don’t walk, only old baseball coaches.”
Players and coaches on teams that play the Rams are often surprised to see RRHS ballplayers running, not walking, to first base after drawing a base on balls. And, of course, running toward the dugout after the third out of an inning.
Now, suffering from agonizing back pain in spite of recent operations and the prospect of another, Murphy probably feels older than he is. Hence, the use of the gator to travel from field to field, surveying kids playing a game he has always loved.
When the camp ends, Murphy gathers all the kids and coaches for a group photo.
“The kids are having fun; the parents are smiling,” he concluded. “It’s a great day.”
Murphy said he plans to have another camp in the spring, knowing one day of instruction isn’t enough to get everyone into good, sound baseball habits and techniques.