For Duluth East outfielder, his escape is the place he excels
As Skyler Murray struggled through problems in his family life, there was one place he sought refuge: the baseball diamond. Murray's parents divorced shortly after moving from Brainerd to Duluth and his siblings shuttled back and forth between th...
As Skyler Murray struggled through problems in his family life, there was one place he sought refuge: the baseball diamond.
Murray's parents divorced shortly after moving from Brainerd to Duluth and his siblings shuttled back and forth between the cities, preventing Murray from realizing a normal adolescence.
But the Duluth East senior found that the baseball field was a good place to get away from everything.
"It was probably my only sanctuary," he said. "That's the only place in this world where I can take everything off my mind and play the game I love."
And Murray, the 2009 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year, excelled at what he loves. He batted .421 with 23 runs scored,
21 RBIs and 13 extra-base hits to help the Greyhounds to a 15-8 record. He also moved from third base to the outfield to help the team.
"When we graduated five outfielders a year ago, our big void in offensive production and speed was in the outfield," East coach John Rudolph said. "Skyler was willing to help fill that void and play the outfield. That personal sacrifice of his strengthened us."
Murray adjusted quickly.
"It was different at first," he said. "I never played outfield until last summer when our [American] Legion coach tried me out there. Coming into this year, I wanted to benefit the team because we had a better third baseman [Tyler Olin, who took over that position] than any other outfielder we had, so I decided to move there."
Despite not reaching some personal and team goals, such as batting .500 or reaching the Section 7AAA final four, Murray felt more at ease his senior year. That was because his 17-year-old brother, Tanner, returned to Duluth.
Soon after the Murrays found a house in Duluth during Skyler's sophomore year, Tonia Murray decided to remain in Brainerd and divorce Edin, her husband of 18 years. Soon after, Skyler's younger sister, Salyna, visited her mother and decided to stay. The same thing then happened with Tanner, who remained in Brainerd his entire sophomore year and half of his junior year.
Skyler, meanwhile, felt stuck in the middle. The family difficulties gnawed at him and he increasingly turned to sports as a refuge.
"As the family situation was degrading even worse, the baseball field becomes your sanctuary -- it's your other family," Rudolph said. "He takes that to heart and tries to leave the outside world off the diamond, and that's very difficult for a teenage kid to do."
After his stepsister, now 13-month-old Kendra, was born and once he convinced Tanner to move back to Duluth, Skyler's spirits improved. Tanner, a junior, played shortstop for the Greyhounds this spring.
"My mind was a lot more at ease because I knew I'd have a chance to play with him one last time," Skyler said. "Having him on the same squad made it more comforting and more fun."
Now Murray, who freely acknowledges that the main reason for the family's move to Duluth was for him to earn a college baseball scholarship, is turning his attention to the next level.
He recently was offered a mostly full scholarship to play baseball at Kaskaskia College, a two-year Division I junior college in Centralia, Ill. In two years, he hopes to earn a scholarship from a Division I four-year university or get drafted by a major-league organization.
"Will he have a chance to play D-I?" Rudolph said. "I believe he will. I firmly believe the difference between those who make it in D-I, or who make it in the pros, are those who have the heart for it. And if I've ever coached someone who has the heart for it ... it is Skyler Murray."
* Murray is in the middle of a busy week. He was one of two Northland players to be selected for the Lions All-Star baseball games this weekend in Chaska, Minn. Then he will head to Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter to train for next Saturday's Minnesota All-Star football game in St. Cloud. Murray was a star running back and quarterback the past two seasons.