Murphy field keeps dream alive for Temple baseball

It’s the bottom of the seventh inning and G.O.D. has just driven by. Two innings ago it was an oil tanker, and the last batter it was a school bus. As these vehicles (like the

It’s the bottom of the seventh inning and G.O.D. has just driven by.

Two innings ago it was an oil tanker, and the last batter it was a school bus. As these vehicles (like the G.O.D. delivery truck) drive on Interstate-76 they pass the new stadium at the University of Pennsylvania.

Murphy Field is a marvel of an urban stadium. Among railroad tracks, an interstate and a power plant stands this brand new 800-seat facility.

Behind home plate are the CSX railroad tracks that are still used. At various points during Temple’s game against the Quakers at Murphy Field on April 12, trains roared past.

The cramped foul lines are kept even tighter by a large, silver, fenced-in building down the right-field line. The power plant has two rising cooling tanks and a fence around its perimeter. This is where batters would be hitting their foul balls if it weren’t for the nets.

The nets extend around almost the entire stadium, except down the left-field foul line. They even extend into the outfield.

In the outfield, cars are constantly rising above the outfield fence. From the roadway above, motorists can get a great view of a ballgame.

The view from behind the plate is of vehicles rising above the pitcher and onto I-76. In the foreground is exit 41 of the interstate, and in the background lies the highway itself.

“I like looking at the cars,” center fielder Bob Filler said.

But any thoughts of nailing a shot to break a traveling vehicle’s windows are far-fetched. Stretching the length of the 380-foot deep field are more nets to stop any wayward homerun ball.

And hovering over the entire site is a massive billboard picturing Philadelphia’s favorite son, Will Smith, for a radio station advertisement.

“I’d have to say that out of all the fields I’ve seen so far around this area it’s definitely one of the best ones I’ve played in,” shortstop Cap Poklemba said.

Murphy field is a mere five-block walk from campus for Penn students. By contrast, Temple’s Erny field is a 40-block trek.

Field of dreams

“It sucks having to take a 20-minute, 30-minute drive just to go to practice,” left fielder Chris Krusen said.

Where — and what — is Erny field? This is a question many have set out to answer , only to get lost trying.

Hidden a long way from campus in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia is Temple’s baseball stadium, Erny Field.

It’s a drive to where Broad Street ends and crashes into a furniture store. Brave Temple baseball fans then make a left onto Cheltenham Avenue and go about two miles until they see an American Appliance store. Then it’s a quick left and right at the corner until they stumble upon Erny Field.

But this isn’t the way most players on the Temple baseball team want it.

After years and years of promises that a new stadium would be built for Temple baseball, Murphy Field may be the catalyst for that apparently impossible dream.

“I would love to have a field like this on campus,” Krusen said. “But I don’t ever see it happening.”

Any dreams of an on-campus stadium –like that held by coach James “Skip” Wilson and most of the players — is probably impossible.

The word from the athletic department is that a new stadium would probably have to be a renovation of Erny field and its surrounding land.

Erny is not a bad baseball field. Most on the Temple team feel it’s the best in the conference. After a recent trip to Xavier the team saw the shoddy condition of the Musketeers’ field and realized Erny Field isn’t too bad.

Every year, Wilson praises the dirt at Erny. His story is that it comes in special just for Temple baseball.

“Erny’s not a bad field,” Poklemba said, “But it’s not the greatest place to play. I think we should get something better than Erny. It would be great to get a stadium anything like [Murphy[, or half of this. I think we’d pour in more fans and make some money for the program.”

Right now baseball games at Erny draw a slim bunch. On a typical Saturday doubleheader or Sunday afternoon game you may find one-hundred people in Erny’s steel bleachers.

This is not to say that an on-campus field would have a major impact on attendance. At Temple’s game at Murphy Field, most of the green seats remained empty. Only about 200 or so people were in attendance, and 50 of them were Temple fans.

But an on-campus stadium like Murphy Field would certainly help the baseball program with recruiting. Krusen says that a short five-minute walk to a practice facility would draw more prospects than the present half-hour drive does.

Dream deferred

It’s the bottom of the ninth and a car carrier filled with limousines has just driven over the outfield wall at Murphy Field.

With the same class that those stretches and this stadium represent, the University of Pennsylvania baseball team has overtaken Temple, 10-3 — one of the Quakers’ first victories over the Owls in a long while and their first meeting in this new stadium.

The defeated Temple team boards its bus to go back to the site where they dream they will have a stadium like Murphy. But they know it’s a dream unlikely to come true.

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