The crack of the bat, roar of the crowd, and steady hum of commentators reflecting on a pitcher’s windup or a batter’s stance are the soundtrack to James Murphy’s professional life. A member of the Le Moyne College Class of 2007, Murphy serves as a post-production supervisor for the MLB Network, which is billed as “the ultimate destination for baseball fans.” America’s pastime is the centerpiece of his career – and he would not have it any other way.
Murphy has worked for the network – which features live coverage of MLB regular and post-season games, as well as original programming, highlights and analysis – for nearly six years. In that time, he has earned four Emmy Awards as part of the team that creates the network’s flagship program, MLB Tonight. He has traveled to the World Series, working on a documentary about the umpires of the 2014 matchup titled The Third Team. And of course he has had thousands of conversations about the sport, which recently have centered on the Chicago Cubs’ epic championship after a 108-year drought and pitcher Chris Sales’ trade to the Red Sox.
The lifelong New York Yankees fan did not plan on a career in sports broadcasting. As a communication major on the Heights, his intention was simply to work in television. Then shortly before graduation he attended a career fair with a friend and an opportunity to work at the National Hockey League presented itself. Murphy spent two years as a production assistant for the league, compiling footage and assisting with various shoots. The experience provided him with a solid foundation for his current work at the MLB Network. So did his time at Le Moyne. Murphy credits the video production class he took as an undergraduate with teaching him about everything from operating a camera, to editing footage, to appearing on air. Even more important, he learned to collaborate with others, to think on his feet, and to adapt to change.
Those skills are absolutely vital in Murphy’s work today. When the MLB Network debuted on Jan. 1, 2009, in a record-setting 50 million homes, its aim was to provide 21st century coverage of a sport that Abner Doubleday is credited with inventing more than 175 years ago. Since then, Murphy and his colleagues have responded to the shift in the way many of those fans now watch baseball. More and more are turning from their televisions to their mobile devices so that they can follow their favorite teams, anywhere, anytime. The network has established an enormous social media presence, with 1.1 million followers on Twitter and 1.1 million fans on Facebook. Yet, the heart of the network remains the same – a game first forged during President Martin Van Buren’s Administration.
As for his own professional future, Murphy said that while he has enjoyed the opportunity to produce and edit, what is most meaningful to him now is supporting other people in those roles as a manager. He focuses his energy and attention on enabling others to achieve their best work. In that sense, he is not unlike a coach.
“Giving our editors the opportunity to work on new projects and seeing the effort they put in and how proud they are at the end of the project is always a thrill,” he said. “Since our programming is mostly live, anything can happen. I need to ensure that we are fully covered, but there will always be something that comes up unexpectedly. Needing to come up with a solution on the fly can be rush. The fast-paced atmosphere here can be intoxicating.”