Bryce Harper’s JUCO coach: He proved a lot of people wrong

Right now, Washington Nationals fans are being treated to a stretch of dominant pitching by rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg. However, Strasburg isn’t the only one in the Nationals’ system on the fast track to stardom. In this year’s amateur draft, they selected Bryce Harper, a 17-year-old slugger who destroyed junior college pitching this season for the College of Southern Nevada.

Harper and his CSN manager, Tim Chambers, joined Seat Williams on ESPN Radio Las Vegas to discuss who Harper is as a person and what’s in store for him in the pro ranks. To listen to the interview, go to Sports Radio Interviews. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Bryce Harper was the number one overall pick in the 2010 MLB first year amateur player draft.
Bryce Harper was the number one overall pick in the 2010 MLB first year amateur player draft.

How would Coach Chambers characterize Harper?

Chambers: I get asked that question a lot. To me, he’s just Bryce. I don’t believe that I treat him any differently than I do the other kids, other than he gets to eat dinner with me every once in a while, and he’s going to go to my three year old’s birthday party today. He’s just Bryce when he’s with us.

But, certainly, we understand what he is going through. It’s been a whirlwind year for him. He got a lot of criticism for leaving early. One of the sayings in our video is that, "We play to prove them right, not to prove them wrong." Bryce played to prove some people right and he certainly proved a lot of people wrong…

For the naysayers, I would say you don’t know him. His teammates and his coaches, who were around him every day for a year, and some of us since he was a chubby little guy hitting in his football pads at the cages at CSN, know him. They don’t know him. Certainly, if you are going to make a negative comment, you’d better know the person you are making it about, would be my opinion. We don’t really pay attention to those guys. We pay attention to the positives around here.

How did Harper celebrate with Scott Boras when he was drafted first overall in the MLB draft?

Harper: He just gave me a handshake and hugged me. He teared up a little bit. He’s great people. They have great people at Boras Corp. They’re all for the baseball guys. They’re just trying to get what they can do to help you out. They’re great people down there.

What was the process behind the decision to shift from catcher to outfield?

Harper: I had no idea what they were going to do with me. It’s whatever they want me to do. If they think it’s best for me to play right field, then that’s where I am going to play.

What does Harper think about Stephen Strasburg?

Harper: He has the talent to be one of the best pitchers ever to play the game. I’d like to watch the thing playing in right field. It might be a little boring because he is so good and he might strike a lot of guys out.

CSN plays in a wood bat league. Did that affect Harper’s draft stock?

Chambers: There’s no question the wood bat helps the scouts. There have been a whole lot of guys, especially at the college level, who hit for a lot of power with the aluminum, and they got a wood bat in their hands and it made things a lot more difficult.

As a pro, will Harper try to wear eye black down his cheeks like he did at CSN?

Harper: I’m not going to wear it [in the minors]. It’s a different level. It’s a different stage of baseball. I didn’t wear it with Team USA. I’m not going to take it to the big leagues or anything like that, or in the minors. That’s in the past. I was fortunate Coach Chambers let me wear it and be myself.

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Right now, Washington Nationals fans are being treated to a stretch of dominant pitching by rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg. However, Strasburg isn’t the only one in the Nationals’ system on the fast track to stardom. In this year’s amateur draft, they selected Bryce Harper, a 17-year-old slugger who destroyed junior college pitching this season for the College of Southern Nevada.

Harper and his CSN manager, Tim Chambers, joined Seat Williams on ESPN Radio Las Vegas to discuss who Harper is as a person and what’s in store for him in the pro ranks. To listen to the interview, go to Sports Radio Interviews. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Bryce Harper was the number one overall pick in the 2010 MLB first year amateur player draft.
Bryce Harper was the number one overall pick in the 2010 MLB first year amateur player draft.

How would Coach Chambers characterize Harper?

Chambers: I get asked that question a lot. To me, he’s just Bryce. I don’t believe that I treat him any differently than I do the other kids, other than he gets to eat dinner with me every once in a while, and he’s going to go to my three year old’s birthday party today. He’s just Bryce when he’s with us.

But, certainly, we understand what he is going through. It’s been a whirlwind year for him. He got a lot of criticism for leaving early. One of the sayings in our video is that, "We play to prove them right, not to prove them wrong." Bryce played to prove some people right and he certainly proved a lot of people wrong…

For the naysayers, I would say you don’t know him. His teammates and his coaches, who were around him every day for a year, and some of us since he was a chubby little guy hitting in his football pads at the cages at CSN, know him. They don’t know him. Certainly, if you are going to make a negative comment, you’d better know the person you are making it about, would be my opinion. We don’t really pay attention to those guys. We pay attention to the positives around here.

How did Harper celebrate with Scott Boras when he was drafted first overall in the MLB draft?

Harper: He just gave me a handshake and hugged me. He teared up a little bit. He’s great people. They have great people at Boras Corp. They’re all for the baseball guys. They’re just trying to get what they can do to help you out. They’re great people down there.

What was the process behind the decision to shift from catcher to outfield?

Harper: I had no idea what they were going to do with me. It’s whatever they want me to do. If they think it’s best for me to play right field, then that’s where I am going to play.

What does Harper think about Stephen Strasburg?

Harper: He has the talent to be one of the best pitchers ever to play the game. I’d like to watch the thing playing in right field. It might be a little boring because he is so good and he might strike a lot of guys out.

CSN plays in a wood bat league. Did that affect Harper’s draft stock?

Chambers: There’s no question the wood bat helps the scouts. There have been a whole lot of guys, especially at the college level, who hit for a lot of power with the aluminum, and they got a wood bat in their hands and it made things a lot more difficult.

As a pro, will Harper try to wear eye black down his cheeks like he did at CSN?

Harper: I’m not going to wear it [in the minors]. It’s a different level. It’s a different stage of baseball. I didn’t wear it with Team USA. I’m not going to take it to the big leagues or anything like that, or in the minors. That’s in the past. I was fortunate Coach Chambers let me wear it and be myself.

More from SRI

Beanie Wells talks about the upcoming NFL season

Chris Pronger reflects on losing in the Stanley Cup Finals

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