Baseball BeatJune 15, 2009
Revisiting Bryce Harper (Again)
By Rich Lederer

Last August, I wrote the following opening to Remember This Name:

Let me introduce you to the No. 1 pick in the 2011 amateur draft . . . Bryce Harper. I know, that particular draft won't take place for three more years. As such, how in the world could I make this type of a prediction now? Well, if you watched the 15-year-old, lefthanded-hitting catcher take batting practice, infield, and two plate appearances on Tuesday at the Area Code Games, as I did, then I have no doubt that you would be as enthusiastic about this phenom as I am.

Well, ten months later, I need to change the year in that first sentence. You see, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bryce Harper has registered at the College of Southern Nevada and will be eligible for the MLB Draft in 2010 if he earns his General Educational Development credential this fall.

Harper, a 16-year-old who just completed his sophomore year, has registered at the College of Southern Nevada, where he plans to attend classes in August and play for the Coyotes next season.

His father, Ron Harper, announced the decision Saturday while in Oklahoma City for a baseball tournament.

"Bryce is always looking for his next challenge," Ron Harper said. "He's going to pursue his education, too. He's going to get pushed academically and athletically.

"I don't see a problem with it. I think we've handled it the right way. I think it will be a great story."

The Harper family first hinted at Bryce earning his GED in the cover article of the June 8, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated.

So good is Harper, and so bleak the prospect of his spending two more years with high school pitchers who can't (and won't) throw their sloppy 80-mph fastballs over the plate to him, that his parents—Ron, a steelworker, and Sheri, a paralegal—are looking for ways to make their son eligible for the draft next year rather than in 2011. One of their advisers is agent Scott Boras, who has a well-earned reputation for maximizing dollars and exploiting loopholes. "I heard one of the things they're considering is taking him to the Dominican Republic to make him a free agent," says one AL executive.

"No," Sheri says. "We are not taking our son out of the country."

What the Harpers are considering, however, is having Bryce earn a GED credential this summer and enroll in a junior college this fall, which would expose him to more challenging baseball competition as well as make him eligible for next June's draft, in which he would likely be the first pick in the country.

For me, Harper's decision means I won't be able to see him play again in the Area Code Games at Blair Field in Long Beach this August. I was looking forward to that. Oh well.

For the Washington Nationals (16-45), possessors of the worst record in baseball this year, it now means having the opportunity to draft the top two amateur prospects in the first 11 years of the 21st century. The franchise won the Stephen Strasburg lottery this year and appears destined to win the Bryce Harper lottery next year. Strasburg and Harper could be the most hyped pitcher-catcher duo in decades, if not ever, should they wind up playing for the Nats. If nothing else, the two Scott Boras-advised players will be the richest signees in the history of the game.

While Strasburg was the 15th pitcher to be drafted No. 1 overall, Harper could become the seventh catcher to go first in the MLB draft. As with pitchers, the history of these catchers — Steve Chilcott *cough* ... Danny Goodwin twice *cough, cough* — would suggest that Harper is not a slam dunk to go from Las Vegas HS to College of Southern Nevada to the minors for a couple of years to the Nationals to the Yankees (after six years) and, finally, to Cooperstown. That said, I wouldn't want to bet against this timeline either.

In the meantime, the former high school phenom, who won't turn 17 until two months after he starts classes at CSN, will be paired with his older brother Bryan, a 6-foot-5 lefthanded pitcher who is transferring from Cal State Northridge, for the 2010 season. The Harpers will be coached by Tim Chambers, a longtime friend of the family.

Ron Harper told the LVRJ that Las Vegas High administrators and baseball coach Sam Thomas are "all supportive" of the move but recognizes that others may criticize this decision.

"There are going to be critics. I can't worry about what people think. People are going to see what they want to see and say what they want to say," Ron Harper said. "I think this prepares him for life, playing the game of baseball.

"People question your parenting and what you're doing. Honestly, we don't think it's that big a deal. He's not leaving school to go work in a fast-food restaurant. Bryce is a good kid. He's smart, and he's going to get his education."

Harper is expected to perform at USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars next week. However, it is unknown at this time whether the youngster will play on the 16U, 18U, or the National Team (Collegiate) as he could technically qualify for all three.

I say skip the Tournament of Stars and CSN's baseball season and fast forward to June 2010... "Washington, you're now on the clock."


As a Nationals partial-season ticket holder the possibility of drafting Stasburg and Harper in successive years is the only thing that keeps me from completely despairing.

This does confirm my belief that luck plays an under-appreciated role in sports (as in life): while I mean no disrespect to Tampa's management, I cannot help but think that it is easier to become masters of player development when you consistently have first or second dibs on the best amateur players, especially when special talents are available.