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Baseball's "Chosen One" living up to early hype

Posted Thursday, March 11, 2010, at 5:38 PM

In this day and age of AAU sports and agents circling around young basketball prodigy's, the story of young Bryce Harper made a large splash last summer as he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the headline, "Baseball's Chosen One."

Seemingly every week there is another story about a young athlete who has been anointed as the next superstar of the sporting world.

What makes Harper's story unique is that he was a 16-year-old high school sophomore when the article reached newsstands and shortly thereafter, Harper decided his high school career would end and that he would take his talents to the collegiate level early.

"Bryce is always looking for his next challenge," his father, Ron Harper told The Las Vegas Review Journal then. "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."

After a sophomore prep season for Las Vegas High School in which he hit a ridiculous .626 with 14 home runs, 55 RBIs and 36 stolen bases, the 6'3 catcher decided he would enroll at the College of Southern Nevada.

Harper turned 17 back on Oct. 16 and will now be draft eligible in either 2010 or 2011. The minimum age for major league draft eligibility is 16, upon completion of high school. Harper completed his GED requirements and is now a member of the Coyotes junior college program, which rocketed to the top of the JUCO rankings.

CSN features three of the top-10 junior college prospects in the country and six of the top 100. Seven Coyotes have committed to play for Division I schools next season.

His brother, Bryan, transferred to play baseball with Bryce after playing for Cal State Northridge.

While many may have forgotten about the young star in the making, it's mainly because the coaching staff has tried to shelter Harper from the constant media demands that hounded him from his arrival for fall ball last year. However, Harper hasn't disappointed for the Coyotes.

This season the catcher and third baseman has hit .408 in 20 games while hitting third in the lineup and has accumulated 10 doubles and six homeruns while driving in 20 runs and reaching base 50 percent of the time. He's also committed just one error in the field.

Most recently, Bryce Harper went a combined 7-for-8 with two solo home runs, two doubles and two RBIs in a doubleheader. Bryce's brother, Bryan, struck out 10 batters in five innings in a 10-8 opening game win against the College of Southern Idaho.

Bryan Harper has been impressive in his own right, going 5-0 this year with a 1.52 ERA while striking out 34 in just 23 2/3 innings.

Though Harper has been under plenty of scrutiny due to his decision to join the collegiate ranks early with an eye towards the Major League Baseball draft, he seems refreshingly grounded.

"I don't have to be the hero on this team," Bryce Harper told The Las Vegas Review Journal. "Our whole lineup is good. We have a great club, and we work hard every day. We don't come out here and lollygag.

"Everybody expects us to win, and we expect ourselves to win every game. But that's not baseball. The New York Yankees go 104-56 and lose some, but it doesn't matter as long as they win the World Series. As long we have that ring at the end of the year, who cares?"

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