By: John Lembo
BRADENTON — The text came Carolina Murphy’s way early Thursday morning.
It was from her son, John Ryan. Not only was he on his way to Pirate City with the Gulf Coast Yankees, but he was penciled into the lineup as designated hitter.
He was batting third.
Three days after signing a professional contract, John Ryan Murphy was going to make his debut in Bradenton, where he was born and raised and became one of the best high school ballplayers in the country.
“I never would have imagined it,” Carolina said.
But it all unfolded Thursday at Pirate City. Wearing a navy Yankees jersey with the team’s white interlocking NY on the front and No. 46 on the back, John Ryan went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored in the Yanks’ 5-0 win over the GCL Pirates.
He did it in front of a half dozen relatives and friends, including Carolina, who stood down the first-base line with a camera while John Ryan’s dad, Mark, stood near the bleachers and videotaped his son’s at-bats.
What they saw was John Ryan knocking in a run with a groundout in his first at-bat and getting his first professional hit two innings later — a soft single to right that plated the game’s second run.
And it all happened at Pirate City, a handful of miles from the family’s west Bradenton home, and from The IMG Academy School at IMG Academy, where John Ryan batted .636 as a senior.
“I wasn’t expecting that right off the bat,” he said, about playing so close to home. “But to have it happen was pretty cool.”
The Murphys weren’t expecting any of this. This time last year, John Ryan had his eyes on the University of Miami, which Mark called his son’s “dream school.” The Hurricanes offered him a scholarship, and he accepted.
Then came the June draft, where the Yankees took Murphy with the 42nd overall pick. On Monday, the two sides agreed on a $1.25 million signing bonus. On Thursday, he was a pro ballplayer, taking third on a single to right and playing catch with outfielders between innings.
“We were tickled he had a college scholarship. As parents, that’s what you hope for,” Mark said. “But you can’t pass up an opportunity like this.”
John Ryan is expected to play out the rest of the schedule with the GCL Yankees, who currently lead the league’s North Division.
He knows he has a long way to go before reaching the majors, but Thursday was a fine first step.
And a fine first step taken at home.
“I had a good day. Hopefully many more to come,” he said. “I’m happy (the first day) is behind me and hopefully, I can do this every day.”