Bryce Harper's coach: 'I expect him to sign'
Bryce Harper spent Saturday at Tim Chambers' home, watching movies and eating dinner with his coach at the College of Southern Nevada. Their season had just ended, and Chambers could sense Harper realizing how much his life was about to change. "Everything is going to be fine," Chambers told Harper.
Harper, 17, will become the first pick of the draft tonight. He'll watch on television with his family in California. He's ready for it, Chambers said.
"He doesn't really get caught up in it," Chambers said. "He's excited. I don't think he can go through any more than he went through this year. He's matured a whole bunch. He learned how to deal with failure. Watching him for a whole year, to go from what he was to what he is now, was incredible."
After the Nationals choose Harper, the focus will shift to the process of him officially becoming a National. Harper is a client of super-agent Scott Boras, who is notorious for protracted negotiations that brush up against the deadline for draftees to sign, which this year is Aug. 15. The Nationals struck a record, $15.1 million deal with Stephen Strasburg, another Boras client, minutes before midnight of last year's deadline.
Harper may have more leverage than Strasburg because he is only 17. Chambers, though, believes Harper will be willing to sign with the Nationals without an ordeal.
"I know that he loves to play baseball," Chambers said. "I expect him to sign. I'm not a mind-reader. I have talked to his family about it. They said, 'We don't want to hold out. We want to sign and get this over with.' "
Before he does anything, Harper will rest for at least a few weeks. "I know that he's tired right now," Chambers said.
Harper played his lone season at College of Southern Nevada under intense scrutiny, and his season ended with a final moment of controversy. On Wednesday, playing in the Junior College World Series, Harper was ejected after protesting a strike-three call. Harper dragged his bat in the dirt to trace where the pitch traveled.
The ejection was "a farce," Chambers said. "I actually told him, 'I watched it 25 times, you actually were a little bit short.' It was 10 inches off the plate.
"I immediately walked to home plate. Bryce walked to the dug out, took his shoes off. Certainly, he shouldn't have done it. But the [umpire] should have realized the stage and the atmosphere, the local attendance. There were 10,000 people booing the umpire. I was proud of Bryce for walking back to the dugout and not saying anything else."
The next day, Harper's teammates played without him. Harper had to say home at the team's hotel in Grand Junction, Colo. In tribute, they smeared eye black all over their face, mimicking one of Harper's trademarks. One player said he lost his jersey -- "I don't know if he was lying," Chambers said -- and wore Harper's. Several players inscribed 34 on their spikes or caps.
"He realizes how much people care for him," Chambers said.
The College of Southern Nevada lost without Harper, meaning his college career had ended. When the team bus rolled back into the hotel, Harper was sitting there on the curb, signing an autograph.
His college career over, Harper still couldn't escape the attention. Harper had left high school two years early to enroll at CSN. Later, on his last day as a college baseball player, Harper realized something and told Chambers.
"As of today," he said, "I'm officially a senior."
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