From the best seat in the house, a sportswriter chronicles the final amateur season of perhaps the most hyped baseball prospect of all time.
Ever since LeBron James took the basketball world by storm in 2003, other sports have sought their own phenoms, individuals possessed of the talent and charisma to shatter statistical records while drawing in casual fans. Enter Bryce Harper, a baseball-mashing savant who, in order to circumvent MLB draft rules that prohibit a player being drafted until the age of 18 or one year after graduating from high school, earned his GED after his sophomore year and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada in order to hone his skills with a wooden bat and make himself eligible for the draft a year early. Recognizing the uniqueness of the situation, CSN coach Tim Chambers granted Miech full access to the team’s dugout and locker room. From that unique vantage point, the author chronicles Harper’s struggle to adjust to the college game, where his immaturity and fiery competitiveness got him ejected from two games, but where his incredible hitting prowess enabled him to crush 31 home runs, obliterating the previous team record of 12. Miech pays particular attention to Harper’s efforts to balance his desire to fit in with his older teammates with his steadfast dedication to his Mormon beliefs. Though CSN’s season ended short of a championship ring, Harper would win the Golden Spikes award, given annually to the nation’s top amateur, and be selected first overall by the Washington Nationals in the 2010 draft. The author’s diligence in profiling the major players in Harper’s world and on his team leads to some entertaining moments. Regardless of Harper’s future success—or lack thereof—however, such excessive attention feels premature, and the narrative occasionally strains to make the hyperfocused Harper as compelling off the field as he is on it.
Becomes more interesting in retrospect if performance equals potential.