Saturday, June 13, 2009 | 11:14 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Steve Silver and Ray Brewer discuss baseball phenom Bryce Harper's decision to leave high school early and enroll at the College of Southern Nevada. Silver and Brewer also applaud the decision to televise high school football games on Thursday nights.
- Las Vegas 'prodigy' makes Sports Illustrated cover (6-2-2009)
- Talent sky-high, feet on ground (5-7-2009)
- It's a swing of beauty (2-7-2009)
I was skeptical at first.
When it was first rumored that 16-year-old Bryce Harper, the stud baseball player from Las Vegas High who seemingly hits the cover off the ball each time he makes contact, was going to skip his final two years of high school to play for the College of Southern Nevada, I was initially critical.
You only get one chance to live the high school experience -- everything from attending pep rallies to flirting with your high school sweetheart in between classes -- and passing on those once-in-a-lifetime moments to face a better fastball seemed like a risky decision.
Then, thanks to Harper appearing on the June 8 cover of Sport Illustrated with the headline 'Baseball's Chosen One,' things changed. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound catcher went from being the best high school player everyone in Las Vegas talked about, to the athlete people across the nation quickly anointed as a sure-thing hall of famer.
The spread in the nationally respected magazine made Harper a superstar, one too big to play against the likes of Canyon Springs and Desert Pines twice each year in Northeast Division play.
Harper's family ended the speculation this weekend by announcing he will play for the CSN next spring, Coyotes coach Tim Chambers said.
Magazine article or not, Harper's days at Las Vegas were obviously numbered. The decision -- whether you think it is good or bad -- will now make national headlines because of his notoriety.
"The kid just wants to play baseball," Chambers said. "The kid is a 3.9 student, so from an academic standpoint he will be fine. If he wants to take his girlfriend to homecoming or the prom, he can still do that."
Chambers said Harper, who hit .626 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs this spring, is scheduled to start classes at CSN in the fall. He must also pass a GED test.
Athletically, Harper was ready for a bigger challenge. And, more importantly, all signs point to him being socially ready, too.
"As long as he continues to play hard, he will be fine," Chambers said.
Harper is expected to be a high first round pick, if not the top pick overall, when he is eligible for the draft -- which, now that he is at CSN, could be next June.
Chambers said the family has contacted Major League Baseball for a ruling on when Harper can be selected. A representative from mega-agent Scott Boras' office attended most of his games this spring.
Come next spring, however, he will be one of several lined up to get a glimpse of 'the prodigy.'
Do a search for Harper's name on Ebay.com and 75 items come up, including an autographed baseball with 28 bidders, the last willing to pay $113.
The Sports Illustrated article, which documented a 570-foot home run he hit last year as a freshman and compared Harper to NBA star LeBron James, opened the flood gates to the Bryce Harper-mania.
"Hopefully we can let this kid get back to playing baseball instead of signing autographs and doing interviews," Chambers said.
Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].