There’s no doubting his ability. There’s no doubt he’ll be great when he hits The Show. But my only question about Bryce Harper is whether he’ll let the money get to his head.
As he continues his tour through Single-A baseball, Bryce Harper came through Kannapolis, North Carolina for a Memorial Day series. It isn’t too often that a top-flight prospect comes through the Charlotte area, so I made the 45-minute drive down 1-85 to Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium and got to catch 14-innings of baseball for just $8, just another reason to love minor league baseball.
At the 1:05 start, the game seems like just another Minor League matchup. A modest crowd of 2,334 fans maneuver their way into their scorching seats on a 94 degree afternoon with a glove, bottle of water, and sunscreen in hand.
But this isn’t an ordinary Single-A game. That much is clear when a 6’3″ 18-year-old steps out of the dugout and immediately elicits a parade of calls from fans of all ages. “Bryce!” “Mr. Harper!” “Hey!” There are even a few younger fans who didn’t quite realize the magnitude of this player’s appearance who call out “Number 34!”
Without batting an eye, Harper heads off to right field to run, throw, and play two-ball with his teammates. The man knows he’s a star already. I just hope he doesn’t let his persona consume him.
Young professional athletes are almost always hard-headed, but what happens if you give them $9.9 million before they can legally vote? The only thing you can hope for is that they continue their work ethic that got them that far. Luckily, he seems to be keeping his tough mindset, saying “You have to take it like you’re a catcher out there … I’m just going to go out there and do what I do every day. Just go out there and win.”
What I saw in Harper from ten rows back was unlike other player I’ve seen. He’s smooth in the field. He walks with swagger. At the flick of his bat he sends the ball rocketing into the outfield grass. But sometimes among this sleekness, it doesn’t always appear that he is putting out his best effort.
There are times when he chases first-pitch curves in the dirt, times when he hacks at 3-0 fastballs, times when he jogged out a poorly hit ball.
There’s 9.9 million reasons why Bryce Harper is the next big thing in Major League Baseball; you can look at any of the thousands of articles written about his unheard of power and tremendous arm strength. But we must remember that he’s still a kid with a ways to go before the majors. And let’s make sure he can handle the spotlight.