By Bob Behre
For Diamond Jack Super 17 pitcher Mike Murray, it’s all about the competition.

Murray, a 6-1, 185-pound righthander from Green Brook, N.J., committed recently to Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. He’ll fit nicely into that Division 1 baseball environment and bring a brand of grittiness his new coaches will love.

“We had a tournament at Baseball Heaven a few weeks ago and I went up to the Hofstra coach to say hello,” said Murray. “He asked me to come to the school the next day. I went up, loved the school and he offered me a roster spot. It was a no-brainer.”

Murray had earlier interest from such schools as Old Dominion, which is building an impressive pitching roster fortified with New Jersey arms, but a late spring forearm strain caused him to miss a couple key showcase opportunities. That lost opportunity simply opened the door for Hofstra and Murray couldn’t be happier.

“It was my first time at the school and I loved it,” said Murray. “I liked the coaching staff. Coach Russo and Habyan were great.” John Russo is Hofstra’s head coach and assistant John Habyan handles the team’s pitching staff. “I watched a bullpen and liked the way coach Habyan coached the guys and helped them out. I felt like I could fit in and part of the team.”

Murray, an excellent student, said Quinnipiac (Hamden, Conn.) was his No. 2 choice. “I’m going into Hofstra undecided but I think I’m going to study business.”

Murray’s Watchung Hills High School team went 17-11 last spring in the rugged Skyland Conference. Murray was a key member of the Warriors’ pitching staff and doubled as a third baseman and a reliable hitter in the potent Watchung Hills batting order.

"You're not going to meet a student-athlete that has more competitive drive or is a bigger student of the game than Michael," said Watchung Hills coach Joe Tremarco. "He has a great work ethic and takes a lot of pride in perfecting his craft. I have no doubt he will succeed at the next level."

“It’s all about competing for me,” said Murray. “It’s the same for my teammates. We want to play the best competition.”

Murray ended the season with a bicep strain which caused him to miss the Garden State Underclassmen Games at Diamond Nation and the first couple high-profile tournaments held at the Flemington, N.J. facility. But he recovered quickly enough to have a very successful summer with the Diamond Jacks Super 17 squad.

“I’m very happy with the level of competition I’ll be playing at and the competition I’ll be playing against at Hofstra,” said Murray. “

Hofstra plays in the Colonial Athletic Association, which encompasses schools from Massachusetts to Virginia.

"Michael is a great example of good things coming to people who wait," said Diamond Jacks recruiting coordinator Steve DiTrolio. "Michael has been a big part of our program since the age of 13. It's been awesome to see him develop over the years. I think Hofstra is going to be a great fit for him."

Murray is currently playing a fall schedule with the Super 17 squad. “We have another tournament or two before we head to Jupiter,” he said. “ The Super 17 team plays in a Perfect Game showcase event in Jupiter, Florida on Oct. 19-24. Then Murray will shut his arm down for awhile.

His thoughts will soon gravitate to his senior baseball season at Watchung Hills.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Murray said. “We still have a chance to be good even without Hylton,” said Murray, who has played with teammate Brandon Hylton since Little League. But the power-hitting first baseman transferred this summer from Watchung Hills to Ridge High School after his family moved.

“Brandon and I have played together since we were six years-old,” said Murray. “It’s going to be weird for me more than anyone else. We’ll be playing without him and playing against him. I could be pitching against him. Hylton was also Murray’s teammate throughout the past five years with the Diamond Jacks, including this summer on the Super 17 team.

“I’m pretty excited for the high school season,” said Murray. “I want to win the county championship, I know that. We always shoot for the stars at Watchung Hills, so we want to win a state title, too. We had a couple tough losses last year. I don’t think our record really showed how good we were.”

Besides the deep well of support at Diamond Nation and Watchung Hills, Murray received some valuable direction along the way from another source, his longtime pitching coach Joe Haumacher. “He’s been everything from a friend, coach and mentor and someone I’ve keep in touch with since I was 12 years-old.”