Softball coach carries a legacy of more than 50 years

Victor Diaz

Cerritos College softball assistant coach Bud Murray’s journey could be described as the equivalent to the Willie Nelson song, “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

Murray coached baseball at Hart High School in Santa Clarita, leading his squad to 26 league titles, and winning the 1999 CIF Southern Section Division II Championship.

Murray retired from coaching high school baseball in 1999 and his jersey, No. 30, was retired by Hart High, who also  renamed the school’s baseball field after him.

He said, “I’ve been coaching for 51 years. You learn what to do and what not to do, but just to watch kids have some success is worth everything.”

In his 39 years as a head coach, he compiled a record of 516-176 and was named the California Baseball Coach of the Year in 2004.

He also had the opportunity to coach several players who are in the major leagues, including Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields, former Los Angeles Dodgers third-baseman Todd Zeile and former Atlanta Braves pitcher Gary Neibauer.

 

The early days

 

Murray lived his childhood in a “house in Dunning, Nebraska with a dirt floor,” sharing his home with seven siblings for five years.

He says he was the only one out of his siblings to graduate high school and attend college. Murray graduated from Chadron State University in Nebraska with his master’s in science.  

While at Chadron State, he helped his basketball team win the Nebraska State Championship, in which he scored 33 points. Shortly thereafter, he earned All-State honors in basketball.

“Athletics have been my whole life. I’m now 75 years old and I still like doing what I do.”

 

Building a legacy

 

Murray also had the privilege of playing professional baseball. From 1955-1959, he played in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, and at one point, he was given the opportunity to play at the major-league level with several Hall of Fame players.

Murray recalls his first pre-Brooklyn experience as something he’ll never forget.

“I went out to Forbes field, and the Dodgers were playing the Pirates in 1949 and I got to see Jackie Robinson play. That was the most astonishing thing I had ever seen in my life.

“When he got on base, the whole game changed. He just changed the game of baseball with his talent and his speed.”

In 1956, he was invited to play in spring training in Vero Beach, Florida, where he got the chance to meet legendary Dodger players such as Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Pee-wee Reese.

Unfortunately, injury did not allow Murray to play in the major leagues. While playing for the Dodgers’ Reno, Nev. affiliate, he pulled his trapezius muscle, and he was no longer able to play.

This career-ending injury was what led to Murray returning to school and pursuing coaching.

 

Passing on a dream

 

After coaching at Hart, Murray went to coach at California State University, Northridge and during his time there, he offered his daughter, Kodee, a proposition.

“I told her, ‘If you ever get a junior college job, I’ll come be your assistant.’ And sure enough, she got the job at Cerritos and our first season was in 2002.

“Our first years at Cerritos were so tough.  I think the team had won three games the previous two years.”

Murray said that, due to some help from Long Beach City College by sending players over, the softball team progressed gradually, including winning a state championship victory in 2008.

According to Kodee, her father has played a big role in her coaching career.

“When somebody coaches and is as successful at it as he’s been, there are things you learn just by having the ability to be around someone like that.

“It’s a win-win. What he brings to the table is over 40 years of successful coaching,” she said.

Center fielder Natalie Garcia said Murray has been a positive influence both on and off the field.

“He is a really good coach. He would tell you what he expects from you and he would just push you to the max,” Garcia said.

“He has taught me how to be a better person and how to speak my mind.”

Murray described his 50-plus years of coaching experience as a learning opportunity.

“You have to have your standard, you have to have your idea of what you have to have at practice and you have to sell kids on that. They’re  guessing about this or that and they never learn a certain way to do something.

“I have tossed out the bad things and kept the good things and that works for me.”