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It’s official: Las Vegas’ Bryce Harper picked first overall by Nationals

Bryce Harper

Gretel Daugherty/The Daily Sentinel

Bryce Harper, left, celebrates after scoring a run during the Junior College World Series. The College of Southern Nevada catcher was the first overall pick of the Washington Nationals in Monday’s MLB First-Year Player Entry Draft.

Updated Monday, June 7, 2010 | 4:51 p.m.

MLB Draft - Bryce Harper

Las Vegas High School player Bryce Harper, a sophomore, appears on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, which compares him to LeBron James. Launch slideshow »

There was no suspense with this draft pick.

The Washington Nationals selected College of Southern Nevada's Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in the MLB First-Year Player Entry Draft on Monday.

The 17-year-old Harper became the first junior college player taken first in draft history, starting another chapter in the catcher's career that has been much documented by national media.

"Thank you," commissioner Bud Selig told the applauding crowd at the MLB Network studios. "I didn't think it was that much of surprise."

Harper last June left Las Vegas High after his sophomore season to join the college ranks in a move partially orchestrated so he would be eligible for the draft this year.

Instead of preparing for his senior year of high school, Harper can expect a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $12 to 15 million. Last year's top pick, Stephen Strasburg, also of the Nationals, signed a four-year deal worth $15.1 million.

"I'm just trying to enjoy it with my family," Harper told MLB Network. "It is what I have wanted since I was 7 years old. It was really fun going through it."

Harper batted .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs in 66 games for CSN. The gaudy numbers are even more impressive considering most of the school's games were played using wood bats.

The hype and attention surrounding a power-hitting Las Vegas teenager started last June when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a headline "Baseball's Chosen One." The article compared him to LeBron James in introducing him to the world.

Now, one year later, Google the name Bryce Harper and 1,117,000 results come up. Everyone from ESPN to the Washington Post has profiled him.

"There are maybe five or six guys who have come out with this much attention," analyst Peter Gammons said during the MLB Network draft coverage.

Harper even caught the eye of one of Washington's most influential politicians.

"Bryce Harper is a rare talent who we're also proud to call a Nevadan," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement. "He's displayed his exceptional abilities against the best competition at every amateur level, most recently at the College of Southern Nevada."

Harper, who has primarily played catcher his entire career, will be moved to the outfield by the Nationals. Selig announced him as an outfielder, a position he played a handful of games at for CSN.

"Anywhere they need me, I will play," Harper said. "I just want to make it. We'll see what happens when I get there."

Mike Rizzo, Washington's general manager, said: “We’re going to take the rigor and the pressures of learning the position, the difficult position of catcher, away from him and really let him concentrate on the offensive part of the game and let his athleticism take over as an outfielder.”

Harper is the fourth local taken in the first round since 1989.

Catcher Tyler Houston of Valley High went second overall to the Atlanta Braves in 1989, infielder Chad Hermansen of Green Valley High was 10th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1995 and David Krynzel of Green Valley went 11th overall to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000.

The three-day draft includes 50 picks Monday, 32 first-round selections and 18 compensation picks.

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