As Kyler Murray decides which sport will win his talents, at least one thing is clear: He owns his future in a way no other rookie has.
Power is someone 10 and a half hours away dropping everything at a moment’s notice to come see you. It is leverage and, even more, the desire to use it. It is the ability to say absolutely nothing and still be saying everything. And in the case of Kyler Murray, who has not seen a single pitch in professional baseball, who has not thrown a single pass in professional football, and who nevertheless has MLB and the NFL frothing over the notion of him choosing their sport, power might be best illustrated by his capacity to make it seem that what he’s doing isn’t utterly singular.
In recent weeks, as the MLB Players Association brainstormed before a bargaining session with the league, the union considered asking for dual-sport athletes entering the MLB draft to be eligible for major league contracts rather than minor league deals subject to a capped amount of spending. In other words: The MLBPA wants a Kyler Murray Rule before it even knows if Kyler Murray is going to play baseball.
This is what Murray does. He gets people dreaming. He has barely played baseball, and the Oakland A’s believed in him enough to choose him with the ninth pick in the 2018 draft and guarantee him $4.66 million. Listed by Oklahoma at 5-foot-10, he is shorter than any quarterback in the NFL, and teams are lining up to choose him in the first round anyway. He is a walking (and running and throwing and swinging) curio, the evolutionary offspring of Bo and Deion, the answer to a question nobody ever bothered asking because it seemed too farfetched: What if there were someone good enough to play quarterback in the NFL and start in center field in MLB?
Since his Heisman coronation this winter, Murray has mostly stayed mum. As his football season at Oklahoma progressed, though, his rock-solid commitment to baseball wavered: “I can’t put it into words, but I’m just thankful” became “As of now, that’s the plan” became “It’s never bad to have options.”
Whatever his decision, the process was always going to play out differently from that of almost any other rookie in the history of sports. Murray owns his future. And to understand why that’s so important to him, one simply needs to look at the past.
IN THE SUMMER of 1982, on an awful Rookie ball team in Pikeville, Kentucky, an 18-year old from Dallas named Kevin Murray hit .161 over a homerless 124 at-bats. He was miserable, even with the $35,000 signing bonus the Brewers gave him after taking him in the 11th round of the draft. When the season was over, he decided he wanted to play football.
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