Ready for the spotlight: Bryce Harper excited to be a part of JUCO

Southern Nevada’s Bryce Harper signs a Sports Illustrated - with him on the cover - for a fan Friday at Suplizio Field. Harper, the projected No. 1 overall pick, is happy to be in GJ and is excited that scouts get to see his teammates play.

Bryce Harper and his family made a difficult decision last year, but for the most part, they are happy with how it turned out.

The Las Vegas 17-year-old chose to quit high school after his sophomore year, get his General Education Diploma and enroll at the College of Southern Nevada.

“At the beginning it was hard, but it wasn’t that big of a deal once I got out there with all the guys and playing with my brother,” Harper said. “I saw my buddies out there. Our whole dream and goal was to make it to the college World Series. I can’t wait to get out there.”

Now, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-handed catcher and his teammates will play on the national stage in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series beginning at 7:30 p.m. today at Suplizio Field. The Coyotes (41-11) play Pitt (N.C.) Community College.

“Stepping on the field for the first time (Thursday), I got the chills imagining the lights and atmosphere,” Harper said. “I’m getting chills right now thinking about it.

“It’s going to be a blast. From day one, we said we want to go to the World Series. We got hot when we needed to and got here.”

Harper and his dad discussed the possibility of quitting high school and enrolling at CSN six months prior to the end of his sophomore year. Shortly after that, Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

“We talked about it and discussed it and decided it might be the best thing to do,” his father, Ron Harper said. “Regardless, it was a good move to play against this kind of competition and do well in school. He did well in school also.”

It took some time for Bryce Harper to adjust to the different level of pitching and swinging a wood bat, but not long.

“We’re facing everybody’s (top) guy,” Harper said. “Facing guys that throw 94, 95 (mph) and absolutely filthy. I faced guys that threw 84, 85 in high school.”

Now, he holds several school records, including single-season home runs with 29. He hit 22 of them with a wood bat and he’s hit some bombs no one has ever seen before.

He hits them over the lights and deep into parking lots.

“I’m not looking at hitting home runs or anything like that,” Harper said. “I want to get base hits and help my team. One through nine, our whole team can hit. It’s going to be a battle, we’ll see what happens.”

His ability to hit the ball has lured hundreds of scouts to see him play and has led many draft pundits to declare him the top pick in the upcoming draft.

Harper, though, is excited to see the exposure his teammates are getting to scouts and possible professional baseball careers.

“Scouts aren’t a big deal,” Harper said. “Scouts are out there watching other guys on the team and that’s huge. A lot of guys are getting exposure. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been good.”

His teammates tease him about the attention he’s drawn from the scouts and media, but takes it in stride.

“They mess with me,” Bryce Harper said. “We all mess around. They say, ‘Hey SI, LeBron, all that stuff,’ but it’s fun, though. We have great chemistry and team.”

Although most of the players on the team are at least two years older than him, Harper knows many of them from high school and summer baseball.

“I know all those guys out there,” Harper said. “I played with a couple of them in the summer. That made the transition that much easier. It was really easier because everyone was in my corner.”

One of his Southern Nevada teammates is his brother, Bryan, who was a senior in high school when Bryce was a freshman.

“I love playing with my brother,” Harper said. “It’s been a blast to be out there with him again and having him around is so much fun, knowing he’s there for you.

“It’s brotherly love. We don’t go at it as much as we did in high school. I help him out and he helps me out. It’s like that with everybody on the team.”


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