Matt Murton's unique journey in baseball included being involved in a pair of blockbuster trades, achieving Japanese stardom, and returning to the Iowa Cubs in 2016 for the first time in eight years.
Murton was drafted by Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2003 MLB amateur draft. He only played a season and a half in the Red Sox organization before being sent to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline in 2004. The Cubs acquired Murton along with star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in a four-way trade that also involved the Minnesota Twins and Montreal Expos.
In 2005, Murton played nine games for the Iowa Cubs and batted .353 (12-for-34) with two doubles, one home run and three RBI. He also played in 51 games for Chicago that season, batting .321 (45-for-140) in his first big league season, the highest batting average for a Cubs player with 100 or more at-bats in his debut season since Tyler Houston hit .339 in 1996.
In his first full season at the major league level in 2006, Murton hit .297 (135-for-455) with 22 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 62 RBI and five stolen bases in 144 games. Between 2007-08, he split time with Iowa and Chicago, appearing in 93 games with the I-Cubs.
On July 8, 2008, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics along with future American League MVP Josh Donaldson, Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson in exchange for pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. Murton finished his Iowa career, at least for the time being, with a .316 batting average (119-for-376), 29 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 45 RBI.
Murton would only appear in nine games in an Oakland uniform, before being traded once again, this time to the Colorado Rockies. He appeared in 29 games with Colorado in 2009 before signing a contract with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japan Central League prior to the 2010 season.
It was in the Japan Central League in the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) where Murton tapped into his full potential and became a superstar. In his first season with Hanshin, the outfielder led the league with 214 hits and batted .349 with 35 doubles, three triples, 17 home runs, 91 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Murton would play six seasons for Hanshin, batting .310 with 1,020 hits, 369 runs scored, 173 doubles, seven triples, 77 home runs, 417 RBI and 27 stolen bases.
While Murton made a name for himself with a greatly successful career overseas, he was still determined to get back to the big leagues. On February 16, 2016, the Cubs and Murton reunited, signing him to a minor league contract. He appeared in a game for the I-Cubs in a pinch-hit appearance on April 19, stepping into the batter's box for Iowa for the first time in eight years.
He could still hit at the age of 35, almost eight years older than the average Pacific Coast League position player that season. In 2016, Murton hit .314 (74-for-236) with 12 doubles, one triple, two home runs and 37 RBI in 76 games with Iowa.
His triumphant return did not end with a big league call-up, but the fan-favorite provided veteran leadership in the clubhouse and proved that his hitting never went away. Murton was granted free agency after the 2016 season and appeared in seven games with the Toledo Mud Hens, Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, this past season in his quest to return to the major leagues.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.