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Cape Cod’s Connection to the 2018 Heisman Trophy Winner

After a season where he completed 70.6% of his passes for 3,674 yards, with 37 touchdowns against only seven interceptions, while adding 853 yard and 11 touchdowns on the ground, Kyler Murray was named the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner as the country’s top collegiate football player.

It undoubtedly was a season for the ages, as the University of Oklahoma quarterback also won the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's best college quarterback, was named the Associated Press Player of the Year and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and made the All-Big 12 and All-American first teams.

So, the question remains, what connection could this 21-year-old phenom from Bedford, Texas possibly have to Cape Cod and, more specifically, the town of Harwich?

Well, Murray is also a baseball player, toiling for the Oklahoma Sooners on the diamond before being taken ninth overall in the Major League Baseball draft by the Oakland Athletics. And, in the summer of 2017, Murray spent three weeks playing for the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod Baseball League, an experience that helped propel him to the heights he would later reach.

A Summer in HarwichKyler Murray sliding into a base in a baseball game

The Cape Cod Baseball League is the country's best collegiate summer league. College prospects from all over the country visit the Cape annually, spending time enjoying the weather, playing high-level baseball and attracting the attention of scouts.

In 2017, outfielder Kyler Murray signed to play with the Harwich Mariners, hoping a Major League scout or two would notice his potential. From there, as long as he performed well, the belief was that a team would take a chance on him in the following year’s amateur draft.

Unfortunately, Murray's summer didn't go according to plan, as he hit just .170 with one home run and two doubles over his 16 games played. While the stat line was disappointing, Marc Thibeault, the Mariners' assistant coach, reports that Murray was like a sponge for the three weeks he spent on the Cape, asking questions and working on different aspects of his game.

As is turns out, the time spent on Cape Cod with a solid group of coaches helps Murray immensely. Over the summer, he learned how to train specifically for baseball, which he had never done before, and the results would soon follow.

Great Things Followed

Upon returning to university to play spring baseball with the Sooners, Murray was a completely different player than before his stint on Cape Cod. In 2017, he hit .122 with zero home runs and only six RBIs, while in 2018, his batting average improved to .296 with ten homers and 13 doubles. He also added ten stolen bases in his 51 games played.

Come June, MLB teams were salivating over his rare combination of speed and power, even though he had never explicitly committed himself to baseball. It turns out the raw natural abilities that Murray possesses were enough for the Athletics to invest a first round pick on him. The A’s then gave Murray permission to play one more season of college football, hoping he would report to the baseball squad for spring training in 2019.

In all honesty, Murray wasn’t expected to have the success he ended up having at the highest level of college football. At 5’10”, 195 pounds, he’s undersized for the quarterback position and would ordinarily be overlooked by NFL teams. His stature is one reason why the Oakland A’s felt confident signing him to a fully-guaranteed contract that included a $4.66 million signing bonus after drafting him and had little problem with him playing another season on the gridiron.

Murray winning the Heisman in his first season as a full-time starting quarterback and now being projected as a first-round NFL pick has complicated things, however, and he’ll have some decisions to make in the future. Could he possibly do both?

He's Not the First

Another interesting tidbit is that Murray isn’t the first dual-sport superstar who spent a summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Pat Connaughton, a baseball and basketball player from Arlington, Massachusetts, spent a few weeks playing with the Mariners in 2013 before being drafted in the fourth round by the Baltimore Orioles.

Connaughton was also selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Brooklyn Nets, before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers and ultimately ending up with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Although Connaughton ended up choosing basketball as his career path, he spent time playing some Class-A ball in the New York-Penn League. And since the Orioles didn't attempt to recoup the $428,000 signing bonus they gave him, they'll continue to own his rights through the 2020 season and can extend that control for another six years if they place him on their 40-man roster.

It’s unlikely that the A’s would let Murray keep his signing bonus to retain his rights, however, because he earned a significantly higher sum.

What the Future Holds

In late November, Murray re-affirmed his commitment to playing professional baseball.

Since that time, however, Kyler Murray has decided to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, and if a quarterback-needy team selects him, there’s a good chance that his baseball career could be over for good, much like the path that Connaughton took to the NBA.

Kyler Murray has some decisions to make in the coming months, but one thing for sure is that Cape Cod will forever have a special connection to this amazing athlete, whether he’s plying his trade in the NFL, MLB, or both in the years to come.

Published January 17, 2019 in Did You Know?, Get to Know Cape Cod