Kyle Murphy’s six-year Northeastern journey
By Justin Chen
The typical college athlete gets five years to complete four athletic seasons. But for pitcher Kyle Murphy – with one major surgery and one world altering pandemic in his past – 2021 will be his sixth in the Northeastern red and black. Having been in the program for so long, Murphy brings a lot to the table, both on and off the field.
Growing up in Billerica, MA, Murphy was surrounded by a family of athletes. His parents both competed in varsity sports at Bentley University; his dad, Shaun, played basketball and his mom, Suzanne, played volleyball. Murphy said he and his three brothers, who all are or were in Division I programs, were exposed to athletics at a young age and “competed with each other doing everything, whether it is wiffleball in the backyard, basketball, or mini-hockey in the living room.” Murphy also recalled how many of his neighbors were into athletics; there was often a game going on. These competitions helped him develop a winning mentality and a will to compete at a young age.
Coincidentally, Billerica was also the home of Mike Glavine, the Northeastern head coach, and his brother Tom, who pitched 22 years with the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.
“The Glavine name is pretty big… the road leading into [Billerica Memorial High School] is ‘Tom Glavine Way’ and when you say the name ‘Glavine,’ most people know who you are talking about,” Murphy said. “The Glavine brothers had very successful high school careers, college careers, and both played in the big leagues at some point.”
Murphy would first meet his now head coach in elementary school, taking hitting lessons from the former NU standout. “I used to give him hitting lessons when I wasn’t coaching at the time,” Glavine explained. “I knew the Murphy family had talent… they’re a big name in our hometown.”
As Murphy grew older, he went from being a regular high schooler to a Division 1 recruit. “Being from the same hometown definitely helped because I knew who he was and knew how good he was,” Glavine recalled.
Murphy first visited Northeastern when his older brother, Chris, was going through the process. “When he went on tours I would come and get a feel for what [the schools] were like,” Murphy said. It was during this time that he reconnected with Glavine; the next year, he received an offer to compete for Northeastern. Noting his longtime relationship with Glavine, Murphy said “that was one of the biggest factors in deciding to come here.”
Murphy was set to start his college career in 2016 as a freshman for the Huskies, but he would lose his first college season before he stepped foot on campus.
“I was at the game. He tore his elbow and didn’t finish his high school season on the mound,” Glavine recalled.
Murphy had to undergo Tommy John surgery (TJS), a reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), to replace a torn ligament in the elbow with another tendon from somewhere else in the body, like the hamstring or opposite elbow. This injury is, unfortunately, common for pitchers and “as much as it is physically draining, it is mentally draining [since] it is a very slow process,” Murphy recalled.
Instead of on the mound, Murphy spent what would have been his freshman season in rehab. Coming back from TJS is a 14-to-16 month process, and made Murphy feel like he had never thrown a baseball in his life during the beginning of his rehab. The grueling recovery makes having a great support system all the more vital, which luckily Murphy had.
“Having that support group around [me] was the biggest thing,” he said. “The training staff was awesome and my roommate Ryan Solomon helped me keep positive.”
While he was not able to do much physically, Murphy spent this time building up his mental toughness and improving his intangibles.
“He was hanging around our older pitchers at that time and was learning and growing and getting stronger,” Glavine said. “And he’s able to pass that [experience] along to some of our [younger] pitchers who have been injured (like redshirt freshmen Matt Downing and James Quinlivan, who both sat out the 2020 season recovering from TJS).”
Murphy made his college debut in 2017 as a starter and struggled a bit, but thrived after a move to the bullpen. This is something Glavine has been doing with his pitchers to allow them to adjust to the college level. And because of this, he was used as a swingman in his first three seasons, both starting and pitching in relief, and even getting closing experience.
“He showed the ability to strike guys out and that’s important in the bullpen,” Glavine said of his pitcher. “And that’s one of the reasons we used him [in that role].”
Murphy embraced that role and worked hard to be versatile. “There are going to be different situations but it’s always the same game,” he said. “You’re trying to make your best pitches and put your team in a good spot.”
This allowed Glavine to give the ball to Murphy in any situation and know he would be able to get the team out of a jam with his ability to strike hitters out, or go five or six innings in a start.
Going into the 2020 season, Murphy was named Northeastern’s Friday starter and tasked with getting game one in every series the Huskies played.
“It was such a cool feeling to know you were being named the Friday starter,” Murphy said. “You go out there putting your team in a place to win and to set the tone for the weekend.”
Glavine said that this decision was a “natural fit.” Not only did Murphy have the tools to take this role, but the team needed his veteran presence on the mound. By now, Murphy had also added a slider to his repertoire, previously relying heavily on his fastball, curveball, and changeup. He emphasized the importance of this fourth pitch, which allowed him to give hitters another look if he had to go through the lineup a few times, and credits assistant coach Kevin Cobb for helping take his slider “to the next level.”
Despite struggling on opening night against Alabama, Murphy ended the shortened season with a 3.00 ERA and a CAA-leading 12.50 strikeouts per nine innings.
After being granted an extra year of eligibility, Murphy had the opportunity to run it back another year with the Huskies, while also working on his sports leadership master’s degree.
“Northeastern is just the place I wanted to be,” he said. “I’m comfortable here, I love it here, and getting a year back was awesome.”
Murphy picked up right where he left off, leading the pitching staff in strikeouts during fall scrimmages.
Going into 2021, Glavine says that he has high expectations for the sixth year senior, expecting him to be a “dominant and competitive but calming force for our team,” as Murphy hopes to get one last trip to a College World Series regional.