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Oklahoma Sooners Football & Baseball: Kyler Murray is starting to come into his own as a baseball player

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Kyler Baseball, anyone?

Getty Images - Mark D. Smith

Since he arrived on campus, Kyler Murray’s rare talent has spoken for itself. His ability on the football field is impressive enough, but what he can do on the baseball diamond makes a guy like Kyler Murray a truly special athlete.

It hasn’t always come easy, but Murray’s ascension to becoming an elite player at the collegiate level has been nothing short of remarkable. For all his natural born gifts, he can equally attribute his success to his commitment and work ethic. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but juggling two sports almost year-round is extremely difficult. There’s a reason most athletes typically choose one sport to focus on after high school. Kyler Murray is just a different breed of cat.

Compared to last season, Kyler Murray looks like a different player on the baseball field — particularly at the plate. Statistically, it’s night and day. One area he’s shown a huge growth is with his batting average. Murray has more than doubled his efficiency, from a rough .122 to a solid .293 average that has continued to trend up as the season has progressed. On top of that, he already has 27 hits and three homers midway through the season, compared to just six hits and no homers in all of 2017. As impressive as anything, however, has been his slugging percentage of .489, which is good for second on the team and is also trending in the right direction.

By the way, here’s that grand slam that Grant Calcaterra mentioned:

Not only has Murray been more comfortable at the plate in pressure situations, he’s come up clutch and delivered. Take for example his performance against Oral Roberts. In a close game in the top of the ninth, the Sooners were looking for some insurance scoring to fend off the comeback-minded Golden Eagles. Murray stepped up to the plate and drilled a two-run triple off the wall. For many players, such a play might only result in a double, but with Murray’s blazing speed around the bases, getting to third is cake.

Something that Murray has always had is his unique talent as a base runner. And it’s more than just his elite speed. Last season, Murray led the team far and away with 12 stolen bases. This season, he’s currently tied for first with five stolen bases, so he’s still wreaking a ton of havoc out there. Part of stealing bases successfully is pure speed, but another part that’s equally essential is picking your spots and understanding game situations. Murray is in total control on the bases, and his natural ability only makes him that much better.

It’s evident that there aren’t many athletes who have Murray’s combination of speed and power. And while all the hits and home runs have been a welcome sight, the area of his game where Murray has taken perhaps the greatest leap has been as an outfielder. Last season, Murray played left field. Coming from playing as an infielder in high school, it proved to be a quite a challenge at times for Murray. This season, Murray is in center field, and he’s not only having more success, he’s thriving in his role. Everything seems much more natural at this point.

His elite speed and coordination allow him to make these crucial plays in the outfield without complication. I had the privilege of seeing this particular play in person, and let me tell you, video doesn’t do it nearly enough justice. Seeing Murray’s athleticism on full display only ignited my excitement for what he can do on the football field, but for now I’ll continue to enjoy his play on the diamond, and I encourage you all to do the same.

It’s really quite amazing. Kyler logs plays that will go into the books as a simple out or a properly fielded ball, but many times these are the plays that few else in college baseball can make. He’s tied for first on the team in home runs (although this team isn’t hitting a ton of homers), and second in total RBIs. Murray isn’t just running to track a fly ball or circle the bases — he’s also running to form. He’s finally come into his own, and ever since he found his footing, he hasn’t looked back.

There is, of course, an elephant in the room, and that is his potential future as a professional athlete. Being three years removed from high school, Murray will be eligible for the MLB Draft this summer. He obviously has high upside as a baseball player, but I wouldn’t be too worried about him taking off for the pros quite yet — even if he’s taken in a relatively early round. 2019 could be a different story, but it’s probably still safe to pencil him in as OU’s starter under center (or in the shotgun, rather) in 2018 barring a major upset in the QB competition.

Oklahoma faces a strong TCU bunch in Ft. Worth this weekend, and hopefully Murray can sustain his run of form and help this team grab some road wins. First pitch for Friday’s series opener is scheduled for approximately 6:30 p.m. CT.

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