The Milwaukee Brewers found a lot to like about Josh Murray, making him a second-round pick in the 2002 draft. But the relationship never fully blossomed, as Murray ended up as a career .213 hitter in the minor leagues and never made it out of A-ball.
Murray found much more success on reality television, as he emerged on Monday night as the winner of the latest season of "The Bachelorette," winning the hand of Andi Dorfman and asking her to marry him in the show's season finale on ABC. (She said yes.)
"When I decided to give up my first love, baseball, all those years ago, a big reason why was because I knew that there was a greater love that existed somewhere," Murray said in the final episode as he proposed to Dorfman. "To be honest, I didn't know if I would ever find that love again. And then I found you, Andi Dorfman, and my life changed forever."
Murray's success on "The Bachelorette" continues an amazing run of former baseball players on the show. ABC's Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise has been pairing prospective couples up since 2002, with the designated Bachelor or Bachelorette picking from a field of typically 25 members of the opposite sex. This is the second year in a row that a former baseball player has won "The Bachelorette," and the third time in the last five seasons.
Last year on "The Bachelorette," former Cubs farmhand Chris Sigfried outlasted the competition and won the affections of Desiree Hartsock. The two are apparently still together and in the midst of planning their wedding. In 2010, Roberto Martinez–who was drafted twice and played at the University of Tampa–won the love of Ali Fedotowsky. Martinez and Fedotowsky broke up shortly after the show ended. In 2012, fellow Tampa alum Nick Peterson won a spinoff version of the show called "Bachelor Pad." However, instead of winning the chance for love, Peterson took home $250,000.
Murray had already lived something of a charmed life. He was a standout high school baseball player for Jesuit High in Tampa and lettered all four years, winning a Florida state championship during his sophomore season and being named a second-team Baseball America High School All-American after his senior year.
He had a good personality and came from an athletic family—which includes his younger brother Aaron, who starred at quarterback for the University of Georgia before being taken by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of this year's NFL draft. And when his baseball career didn't work out, Josh Murray returned to Georgia and played football, as a defensive back.
Heading into the final days of "Bachelorette" taping, Murray had to deal with meeting Dorfman's family, going on a final date, picking out an engagement ring and wondering whether Dorfman would choose him over fellow finalist Nick Viall.
"The way I feel about her is the forever kind of love feel," Murray said to Dorfman's father during the final episode. "That's how I feel."
On his final date with Dorfman in the Dominican Republic, following a ride on a yacht, Murray showed Dorfman a baseball card he made for her, with her picture as a member of "The Murrays," with her very own stats on the back: Drafted first round, first overall; Errors: can't dance and swears too much.
"I've had some big days in my life," Murray said on decision day. "Getting drafted in baseball, going back and playing football with my brother. But this day is the biggest day of my life."
It all worked out for Murray, as Dorfman chose to give him the final rose.
While the Brewers might have missed on Murray as a baseball prospect, Tom McNamara nailed it with his "Bachelorette" prediction—made weeks before Monday's finale.
"He's a good-looking kid," he said. "Yeah, he's got (the face). He's a good kid, too. I bet he wins the thing."
McNamara, who is now the Mariners scouting director but was then an area scout covering Florida for the Brewers, saw a strong infield defender when he saw Murray, and hoped he would hit enough to reach the big leagues. But Murray was a big question mark because he had Tommy John surgery in 2001 and missed a lot of time. Still, the Brewers liked him enough to take him with their second-round pick in 2002—48th overall–ahead of players like Jon Lester (57th, Red Sox), Brian McCann (64th, Braves), Curtis Granderson (80th, Tigers) and Josh Johnson (113th, Marlins).
Murray's baseball career didn't turn out the way McNamara, the Brewers or Josh himself might have liked, as he never hit enough to move up the minor league ladder and struggled to overcome injuries.
"I went to see him when he was playing for Ogden, our Rookie-ball club," McNamara said. "He was doing OK but not up to his expectations, and he was putting a lot of pressure on himself. I told him, 'You're fine, you're fine.' But he said to me, 'I'm not holding up my end of the bargain. Our first-rounder, that guy can hit. That's a hitter.' Of course our first-rounder was Prince Fielder."
Despite feeling outclassed in the first year of his professional career in Rookie ball, Murray stuck with it. He played for the Brewers organization for five years before being released in June 2006. He played games at shortstop, second base, third base and a few in the outfield while putting up a .213/.286/.319 career line.
Right after he was drafted, Murray cracked the Brewers prospect list at No. 30, on a list that included Fielder (No. 3), Corey Hart (No. 5) and J.J. Hardy (No. 6). This is what Baseball America wrote about Murray in the 2003 Prospect Handbook:
The Brewers selection of Murray in the second round of the 2002 draft was a swing for the fences. He is a polished defender who handles the bat well for his age and shows good poise on the field. After missing the entire 2001 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Murray dropped on most teams' draft boards and some people were shocked when Milwaukee scouting director Jack Zduriencik announced the pick. Though the Brewers are confident Murray will blowwom into a first-rate player, the early returns weren't overwhelming. He hit .255 in Rookie ball, struck out 48 times in 157 at-bats and committed 22 errors in 48 games. At a price of $825,000, Murray could turn out to be a shrewd pick or an expensive mistake.
After his baseball career, Murray returned to school and played safety for Georgia in 2009 and 2010 with Aaron, who threw for more than 13,166 yards and 121 touchdowns in four years as quarterback. Josh was on the scout team in 2009 and played in two games in 2010.
McNamara recalls visiting the family before signing Josh in 2002, and meeting Aaron as well.
"When I was there, I also met his younger brother, who was about 10 or 11 at the time," he said. "And I could tell he was an athlete, so I said to him, 'What about you, are you a good baseball player too?' And he says, 'Naw, I play a real sport—football.' "
While Josh came to Georgia to support his brother, Aaron similarly supported Josh in his efforts to woo Dorfman, watching his brother perform every Monday night. Aaron also appeared in the episode when Dorfman visited Murray's family.
"It's all craziness, but a lot of fun," Aaron told The Associated Press. "Monday nights are crazy, my phone is blowing up with friends and family talking about what he's doing."
Next Chapter Begins
Now Murray is being celebrated in a totally different way. One of his former teams, the Beloit Snappers (Midwest), found out about Murray's journey on the show and decided to turn it into a promotion. Beloit is one of the smallest markets in the minor leagues, and media relations and marketing director Bobby Coon said it presented a great opportunity for the franchise.
"You know what, to be honest our intern Colin actually came up with the whole thing," he said. "Basically I found out he was a former Snapper and I told him, 'You know what, we should do something with this.' He went out and did the whole thing by himself."
Colin proceeded to go out to a local salon and flower shop to get prizes and discounts for fans in attendance at the July 30 Josh Murray Night to celebrate Murray's engagement. An autographed baseball card of Murray with the Snappers is also a potential prize.
Coon did admit that because of the many spoilers available online for fans of "The Bachelorette," they were confident Murray would win and that the fans would be celebrating rather than mourning. Either way, though, he said he still would have gone ahead with the promotion.
"We are trying to get different kinds of people out here," Coon said. "And the female base is definitely one of them. What better way to do that than with the Bachelorette?"