Man Amongst Boys: The Oral History Of Bryce Harper's Record-Setting Junior College Season
The MVP's most unprecedented move came long before he made the major leagues.
Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In 2009, Bryce Harper's prodigious talent and mammoth frame made him a Sports Illustrated cover boy as a 16-year-old sophomore at Las Vegas High School. That same year, while competing in a high school home run derby, he smashed a 502-foot home run—with an aluminum bat—at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field, longer than any home run recorded in the ballpark's history. The resulting video made him a viral sensation. An ESPN E:60 feature soon followed. It was unheard of exposure for a high school baseball player.
All of it served as confirmation for what those in baseball circles had known for years: Harper was a once-in-a-generation, franchise-defining talent. The only question was which team would receive the opportunity to draft him after he graduated high school two years later.
That's when Bryce Harper did the most unprecedented thing of all. That spring, his family learned of a loophole in the draft system. If he could get his GED, he would be able to directly enroll in junior college, and declare for the draft a year sooner. Following the conclusion of his sophomore year, he enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada, the local school that was a short drive from his house. It's believed that no one has attempted this before or since.
At Southern Nevada, the 17-year-old Harper would play with and against players up to five years older than him, while he was still navigating how to get his driver's license. Harper joined a team considered among the most talented in the country at any level. More than that, they were unusually close. Adding Harper gave the team a chance of winning the Junior College World Series. They would reach the precipice of that goal, and Harper would perform unimaginable feats, as well as become embroiled in one of the first controversial incidents of his baseball career. Along the way, Harper's teammates came to know and understand the greatest baseball talent of his generation in a way that few have since.
"He was just a man amongst boys out there," says Danny Higa, CSN's starting shortstop. The youngest player on the field made children out of his competition.
What follows is an oral history of that season, as told by 19 of Harper's teammates and coaches from the College of Southern Nevada. Each is listed by his role on the team at the time, and, when applicable, his year in school.
Sean Larimer, Undergraduate Assistant: I think it was actually suggested on a comments section on the Internet. His mom ran by it and saw he could get his GED by graduating early from Las Vegas High School and be eligible for junior college.
Cooper Fouts, Catchers Coach: The fact was the high school baseball situation wasn't very healthy for him at the time. One, it wasn't competitive enough for him, and two, it wasn't healthy because of the way people treated him. There were people who tried to hurt him at times. It was a negative environment for him at that time.
Larimer: So they reached out to [Head] Coach [Tim] Chambers and I think it was in the middle of the summer, the summer started to progress and it came true. His older brother actually transferred back from Cal State Northridge and that made it more of an easier decision for them to be able to play together again.
Scott Dysinger, Sophomore, Second Baseman: Chambers had called me that summer before it happened...to have my thoughts because I was the team captain that year. Just kind of wanted to know what my thoughts were and how the team felt about it. I was all for it. Someone that's going to make our team better, I'm all for them coming to play with us.
Ryan Scott, Sophomore, Catcher: He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and I saw that in Maine, actually, visiting family that summer. It got shipped to my grandma's house and I saw it and I was reading the article and it said Plans to enroll in junior college the following year. I started doing the math. I'm like, Hold on. Junior college. Las Vegas. There's only one. And pretty soon, I found out that it was the one.
Marvin Campbell, Sophomore, Left Fielder: The way it unfolded, big picture-wise, it was kind of the perfect shape for him. He'd be at home, he had me — he's known me forever — kind of as a big brother. His real big brother, Bryan, was coming back. He had Donnie Roach, Scott Dysinger, Trevor Kirk. We had a bunch of hometown guys who knew him. It's not like he's going to go somewhere where guys are going to envy him, just trying to make it harder on him. It was just very natural. Come aboard, we're going to have something special here. So the transition was just super easy for him and it was kind of — I'm not going to say safe, but the way everything unfolded was a perfect fit. I don't think we could have had a better kid coming in, a better group of guys around him. It just made everything so smooth for everybody.
Most of CSN's team had heard of Harper long before the national media caught wind of him. He had long been playing above his age group so, whether they had played with him or against him, it seemed as though everyone had a Bryce story by the time he made his way onto campus. In Las Vegas, Bryce Harper was already a legend.
Dysinger: Just how hard he hit the ball. I had never seen anything like that. Playing in my age group, four years ahead of him, at eleven at the time, there was no one that even compared at that time to what he was doing at seven. He was a freak.
Campbell: Even on our little league teams, he was probably around seven or eight, coming out practicing with us, playing catch, taking BP, doing everything that we were doing. [He'd] hold his own and be better than half of the other guys even out there. So that's kind of where you started to see he wasn't going to play with his age group, that this was going to do him no good.
Fouts: He was 12 years old, hitting home runs with a wood bat [practicing] at CSN at that time. There was a time where he took BP one summer and he hit five straight out with a wood bat. He was 12 years old. Going to be a seventh grader.
Kenny McDowall, Swingman: When I was a senior in high school, that was the first time I saw him. We played against Las Vegas High School and he was pitching for them and he was sitting 93, 94, the whole game. I was an asshole, I was like, who is this guy? And [my teammates] are like, You don't know who that is? That's Bryce Harper. Well, Jesus, he's huge. How old is he? He's a freshman, dude! He's 14. I was like, what the fuck? He looked the same size, man. He's 6-3, 210 probably, throwing faster than I'd ever seen and a monster in the box.
Larimer: I really started to notice his freshman, sophomore years of high school... I was watching the regional championship game and Vegas was actually playing Green Valley High School and Bryce hit an opposite field home run at Vegas over the 375 sign in left center. An opposite-field home run that literally cleared the parking lot out there. Cars can park on the street and it went right over my car. I don't know what more you can say.
Along with Bryan Harper transferring home from Cal State Northridge, the Coyotes added two more Las Vegas natives to the pitching staff, Donn Roach (Arizona) and Aaron Kurcz (Air Force). They joined a group that also included starters Chasen Shreve and Joe Robinson, and swingmen Tyler Hanks and Kenny McDowall. All seven would be drafted after the season.
Meanwhile, Trent Cook, a returning Mormon missionary, joined the team for his sophomore season. He combined with Marvin Campbell to serve as Bryce Harper's lineup protection and form the heart of the order. All told, it was a veteran-heavy roster that had the makings of a special team. CSN was stacked, and set their sights on winning the Junior College World Series.
Taylor Jones, Freshman, Reliever: Every single guy on the team could have been a starter on any other team in the country. We had guys that didn't get to play as much or barely got any playing time, but they knew their role. If I was only going to come in and face one left-handed batter all weekend, then that was my role.
Campbell: There wasn't one set person on that team who was, like, I'm the captain, I'm the guy, it's going to be my way. Everybody policed everybody. Everybody held everybody accountable. If I didn't have it, [Dysinger] had it. Or Bryan had it. Or Trevor had it. [Cook] was Pops. He was older than everybody. That's Pops. Grandpa Cook. He was going to come in and he was super calm. Everybody kind of had their own niche with that team that made us grow so much closer.
Trevor Kirk, Sophomore, Right Fielder: A lot of the better players that were around my junior and senior year ended up going to CSN. It was funny, we played the high school All-Star game and a lot of those guys were CSN signees. It's sort of cool to see. It was a pretty local team and I think that helped with the camaraderie of the team, because everyone knew each other.
Campbell: They took away hell week for that season because guys are out there a week, two weeks before we were supposed to report. Already hitting in the cage. Already running at the field every day. It was just stuff that we did. Meet us at the field at 8 o'clock, 10 o'clock, we're going to get a little workout in. We flipped to each other, played catch, do what we had to do because we were like We're going to take this seriously. This is our year.
Still, Harper's transition from high school to college wasn't entirely seamless. It was one thing to play up a grade level on travel ball teams, and another to compete against college athletes on a daily basis. Compounding matters was a summer-long stint with the USA Baseball 18-and-under national team (which also included Manny Machado). While the rest of the team arrived to fall camp refreshed, Harper showed up without ever taking a break.
Campbell: The tone coming into it was, especially from the sophomores and older guys, OK, you're going to come in here, you're going to work like everybody else. We're not going to treat you any different. You're the young guy, so we're going to rag you like you were a typical freshman coming in here. You're not going to get special treatment from us. We might come at you even a little harder just because we're going to demand a lot out of you. And he understood it... It took him a while when he came back from Team USA. He had lost a lot of weight. He kind of just looked tired.
Ray Daniels, Freshman, Outfielder: Before we even started, going into that fall, our head coach Tim Chambers made him take practices off just because he'd been going nonstop his whole entire life. He wanted him to take a few days off and it looked like it killed [Bryce].
Campbell: When he came in that fall, he struggled. He got beat up. You're facing Aaron Kurcz, who is in Triple-A right now. Donnie Roach has had big league time with a few teams. Chasen Shreve's in the bigs right now with the Yankees. Joe Robinson had played a couple seasons in the Dodgers organization. Bryan's in Triple-A with the Nationals right now. He's coming in facing guys off his own staff, his own team. I remember Roach just carved him up one day. Carved. Him. Up.
Scott: I was catching [during fall camp] and, of course, in high school in they're either walking him or throwing him different stuff, but I made sure we were throwing pitches that probably weren't being thrown in high school. In different counts, throwing him pitches that maybe — a 3-1 changeup or something.
Dysinger: Seeing good arm after good arm took a toll on him at first, because he wasn't necessarily used to that. There was a little bit of a learning curve and adjustments that needed to be made. I think, at first, he kind of thought Wow, I don't know if I can do this. But clearly it didn't take long to get over that, maybe a week. I'm sure to him, it seemed like an extremely long time but it was noticeable.
Campbell: I told him, Dude, don't change. Don't try to do anything different. Just play your game and you're going to have success... That fall, we faced Cypress or Fullerton Community College came down and played us. And he just went off, had a great weekend and that set the tone, and that was at the end of the fall. That kind of set the tone for him coming into the spring. I can do this. I can have the success. I told him, You're not going to face a better staff in the country than right now what you're facing in practice.
It was hardly surprising to see Harper once again acclimate to higher-level competition. Everyone on the roster, including the players who had not played with him, expected as much. What those who didn't know him came to realize was that Harper also possessed maybe the team's most voracious appetite for work. His status as a top-three pick was virtually guaranteed, barring injury, and he seemingly had every incentive to coast through the season. Instead, he poured himself into helping his new teammates win as many games as they could together. They found his intangibles to be as impressive as his physical abilities.
Daniels: [He gave] everything he had, 100 percent, all the time. If he had an off game in the first game of a doubleheader, he would go right into the batting cages, him and his dad. He'd just start taking hacks, over and over and over again, to fine tune his swing.
Fouts: There were times when I made him throw up in a workout. There was a time when he did a leg workout that he couldn't drive home. He had to call his mom to come pick him up. But he didn't bitch or complain about it.
Jones: I used to start the Tuesday games in intersquad. Those were probably the best games we had all year, honestly. It wasn't like starters versus the bench players. Those were legit games because everybody could play. My first time facing him, one of my pitching guys was right behind the mound and he was my buddy. He said, You won't throw him all fastballs. I sure will! No you won't. I threw him three straight fastballs, strike him out. Next time up, he says, You won't throw him three more straight fastballs. You bet your ass I will. Strike him out and as I'm walking back into the dugout, before Bryce went to take the field, he met me at the first base line, gave me a hug and said, Thanks, TJones. Thanks for challenging me, man. From that point on, I never threw [him] any breaking balls or anything.
Roach: We were at Southern Idaho and for some idiotic reason their bullpen in right field is surrounded by like a four or five-inch concrete wall to hold the bullpen in. But it's in play for some reason. I remember him going for a fly ball and sliding into it. I'm like, What is this idiot doing? You're going to blow your knee out for a foul fly ball and risk of millions of dollars.
Trent Cook, Sophomore, First Baseman: Immediately, everyone thought, Uh oh. That's bad. Is he going to be hurt? Does it jeopardize the season? The plans going into the draft? That right there proved to me that, yeah, it was about him getting to the major leagues sooner — there was stuff to do for himself, we all understood that. But at the same time, going all out for a ball like that to potentially, possibly jeopardize his season by sliding into the wall — it's something that he didn't really need to do, but he was just giving 100 percent all the time. That just proved that team was important, too, and winning was just as important as his own personal achievements.
But while they were all teammates, everyone soon realized that Harper had no equal on the field. Even then, the stories of his physical dominance are legion, and jaw-dropping.
Scott: Early on in the fall, I'm thinking, Hey, this is my competition for the spot and that's how I treated it, like [he was] any other guy. But after a while, I had to remind myself I'm not Bryce Harper. Trying to keep up at that level, just, you look at the major leagues and there's nobody doing it there now, either. So I just had to be realistic and understand that he's pretty special.
Tyler Iodence, Redshirt Freshman, Reliever: The pitchers would shag BP and I'd go out behind the fence just to shag the balls. You know with Bryce that he was going to hit them over the fence, so we'd just stand out there and wait for him.
Danny Higa, Sophomore, Shortstop: His BP, it was funny because the other team would stop what they were doing and watch this kid. It's like, we're playing this other team and you would think they'd be getting ready, but they're watching him take BP.
Matt Medina, Freshman, Infielder: It was almost like we couldn't wait for him to come up. When Bryce was on deck, if we had runners on or he was up, we knew we were about to score or something special was going to happen
Fouts: Honest to God, if you asked 35 guys, you might have 35 guys come up with 35 different answers. There are that many examples. I'm sure we're all forgetting a lot of things that were washed away in memory, too, that he did.
Kirk: I remember our first game. I was on third base talking to Chambers, the head coach. They were trying to intentionally walk him. I literally was not even looking at home plate and Chambers and I were talking back and forth, and next thing you know, you hear a crack... And he hit a ball out of the strike zone — that was basically supposed to be a pitchout, for an intentional walk — and he hit it to deep left field.
Kyle 'Kaz' Smith, Freshman, Catcher: It was a home series, a Friday night game and he took a ball over the batter's eye, dead center [home run]. It was a line drive. I remember Cooper Fouts was standing right there and he goes, That is the farthest ball that's ever been hit in this stadium and it was dead center, in the wind.
Fouts: We were playing Cypress Junior College in the only metal bat game we played all year until we got to the district championships in Lamar, Colorado. We're playing at home and, again, they're a California junior college so they play with metal, so we played with metal. Wind was blowing out to left field. He generally hits with an open stance. I saw him get up there with a closed stance and hit a high pitch out to left field. As though he said, I'm going to hit it that way, no matter what. There's nobody else I've ever seen be able to do that. I've played with big leaguers, I've played with a lot of great coaches, a lot of very talented kids who were drafted but there's nobody even close to [doing] that. He had the raw, physical, God-given ability to just sometimes do as he pleased. What nobody else could.
Casey Sato, Sophomore, Utility Man: The defining Bryce moment for me was the regional finals to get into the World Series. We had gotten beat like 25 to 18 in Game 1, and they had to beat us twice on that Saturday. They beat us pretty good in the first game, so we got to play a true elimination game — Game 2 — and he ended up going six for six with four home runs, a double and a triple.
Campbell: He'd be in a game and we'd be standing on deck in between innings, kind of just talking and going over the pitcher and what he's got. And he'll go, Hey, watch this. I'm gonna get him. I'm gonna get him. Watch this. Alright, let me see it, Harp. Let me see it, Mondo. And he'd go up and — Got him! I'm just standing there kind of laughing, like, Alright dude. Give him a little high five.
McDowall: Everyone I play with in indy ball, I tell them Bryce is my catcher, because they brag about their catcher in college. Yeah, I had a pretty good catcher. Yeah, Bryce Harper was my catcher. They'd be like, What?! I don't think I had a passed ball all year. He threw out every runner that tried to run, half of them from his knees. Just 95 across the diamond.
Scott: Some throws he would make [from the outfield] were pretty impressive, because he would let it go. I remember he would try to throw everyone out backdoor at first base, so any time there was a ground ball in the outfield, I had to line myself up to back up a throw at first because I knew it was coming. I mean, everyone.
Jones: There'd be times where he'd hit a ball like right to the left fielder. The left fielder would just jog in to get it and he'd be on second, sliding into second and get a double off of a routine single. He could tell they had to make the perfect throw and the perfect tag to get him out, and he knew by him putting the pressure on, not everybody would be able to do that.
Campbell: I ended up hitting 15 home runs that year and Chambers would talk about it all the time. Marv, you broke the single season record at CSN. You hold that record. But it just so happened Bryce Harper played on your team that year, too. I think it was like 11 or 12 and at one point, I was leading the team with like three. I had a weekend where I hit five and had the single-season record for home runs in a weekend, or whatever it was. It was five. Bryce came back and broke that later and hit six. My freshman year, I had a game where I hit two grand slams in a game and had eight RBIs. Bryce came back, sophomore year, and broke the record for RBIs in a game — I think he had 10, when he went for the cycle [in home runs]. It was that friendly competition. Nobody was going to out-do him. He wasn't going to let it happen. I'd come up and hit a homerun — if he was hitting behind me, I'm going to hit one farther. If he hit a double, I'm going to hit a triple. That was just him.
Roach: Now that I've played through highest levels of baseball and seen grown men hit the ball, I think back to what he was doing and that's when I realize how impressive he was. The way he was hitting the ball. He's hitting balls still going up to the opposite field, over the scoreboard.
Fouts: I've coached first-round picks and I don't know if I'll ever coach a 1-1 again. If I'm lucky, that'd be great. But I have a hard time believing there will be a 1-1 that is that. You're seeing it against the best competition in the world, and you're seeing him be the best in the world. I just don't believe God has made another one of those right now.
Harper's season defied every possible expectation. In 66 games, he finished the year batting .443 with a .526 on-base percentage. His slugging percentage of .987 was more than 300 points better than the team's second-place hitter, Cook. Prior to 2010, the school's home run record was 12. Harper smashed 31, more than the team's second- (Campbell, with 15) and third-leading (Cook, with 11) hitters combined. The overwhelming majority of those were with a wood bat. He also added a team-leading 20 steals.
Harper also won that season's Golden Spikes award, which goes to the country's best amateur baseball player. It was the first time in 20 years and only second time ever that it was given to a junior college player. All told, he led the team in 10 different offensive categories and set six school records that still stand today.
But his notoriety came a cost. Already a celebrity, Harper exploded into even more of a phenomenon over the course of the season. It had been years since anyone had seen a prospect even close to his caliber, and none of them had walked Harper's unprecedented career path. Accordingly, the demands and pressures that he dealt with were among the most unique any teenage athlete has ever faced.
Sato: You'd see his immature moments and you'd see his mature moments. There were times when he would get a little more angry — he'd throw a helmet or throw a bat or whatever. But in other times, he was mature with the way he approached practice or he approached all the media. The most mature moment I saw out of him was, we were at the College of Southern Idaho and when we'd typically play, we'd play a doubleheader on Friday and a double header on Saturday. After the games on Friday, the umpires came up to our bus with a box of balls to get him to sign. These are the same umpires that are then going to be calling our game tomorrow. He's kind of stuck in this really bad predicament where it's like, he shouldn't have to sign the balls, but if he doesn't then are calls going to go against us the next day? He ended up signing the balls and he didn't complain it. He just did it.
Dysinger: You could tell after, What am I supposed to do? You did the right thing. Just sign them and keep your head down and you show up and you play.
Taylor Larson, Freshman, Reliever: When we played at Salt Lake CC, after the weekend we had tickets to the Jazz and Lakers game, so me and my family took Bryce to the game. And the whole time we were there, it's, Oh my gosh, it's Bryce Harper! It's Bryce Harper! It's Bryce Harper! The next day, we went to the Apple store to get him a new phone and people in there are bugging him, taking pictures, wanting autographs. He was always good about it. He would take the time to talk to the kids and take pictures with people and sign autographs.
Higa: We would go to other teams' fields and I swear there were people from that city who'd come to watch Bryce and not the team they'd be rooting for. We would get done with the game and there would be a line like 30 to 50 people wanting his autograph. The whole team would be sitting in the bus, waiting for him to get done signing autographs.
Fouts: I remember going to Grand Junction and trying to get him out of Grand Junction after our first or second game because I think we played the night game our very first day. Trying to get him out of there was a madhouse. The next day, we played a day game with Iowa Western and just trying to get him out of there was just an hour, hour fifteen, hour twenty-minute process. Easily. We had a couple of our coaches who were just beside him all the time. It was just never going to end.
Cook: People always hounding him. People always booing him. Telling him he's doing the wrong things. Telling him he should have stuck it out in high school. And then you'd just go out there and he just knew he was the best player at all times on the field. He'd go out, go 4-for-4 in a game. Hit four home runs in a game, and prove the doubters wrong. That's something, from a physical standpoint, he had all the assets from a physical standpoint and the mental standpoint that most of us didn't have... I've been in the spotlight before and I've told myself, I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. But for some reason, those demons get the best of me more frequently than they would for Bryce. It's hard to explain or put it into words. He was on a totally different level.
Dysinger: There were times when he acted younger, as he should. We expected it. We didn't want him to be some college kid. We wanted him to live his life still. He went to his prom and things like that. He didn't really have a choice about growing up but he was definitely far ahead of his years.
Fouts: He just wanted to be a kid and yet he knew he couldn't be. He knew he had to be somebody else. But when it all comes down to it, when you let your guard down, you still want to be able to just relax and be who you are and be a kid and be 16. People wanted him to be 20. Well, he wasn't 20. He hadn't experienced that part of life yet.
CSN finished the regular season 41-15, with a 23-9 roster record in conference. After winning their regional in Lamar, Colorado, they clinched a berth in the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado. It was only the program's third appearance in 15 seasons. The Coyotes were seeded third and breezed through their first three games in the double-elimination tournament, blowing out their opponents by a combined score of 43-13.
In the fourth game, they were pitted against top-seeded San Jacinto College, from Houston. It was the matchup they had anticipated all season. It would become known for one of the first controversial incidents of Bryce Harper's career.
Larson: Going into the World Series, we knew we were going to win it. We knew there was no way anybody could beat us.
Sato: I just remember that game in general was a game we had circled. San Jac was kind of like a rival of ours even though we never really played that much. It was a team that, I think emotions were running pretty high with that game. It was like, Hey, if we get past these guys, we're sitting pretty for the rest of the tournament.
Higa: I think I'll remember that day until I die.
Campbell: I remember when [Bryce] came to the dugout after the first inning, and you could see him and our catchers' coach kind of somewhat going at it. But you could hear the conversation and you understood: They're not going at it. The home plate umpire pissed him off. And it was [when]he went out, and our catchers always did, introduce themselves. Hey, I'm going to be catching the game tonight, what's your name? This is who's on the mound, this is what he throws. Kind of give the home plate guy a heads up. That's what he did. He did his regular thing
Larimer: The umpire basically started antagonizing him and said, I heard you can hit, now let's see if you can catch. The game kind of progressed and there were one or two other comments made by him.
Campbell: There was a borderline pitch. Bryce caught it and kind of held it. After[wards] he pulled back, just turned slightly to ask him where it missed and the umpire told him, Don't look back here. Don't turn around and talk to me.
Kirk: It seemed like people were always on him. People wanted to get under his skin. There were umpires that wanted to get their name out and it seemed like that was everywhere.
McDowall: [His next at-bat], he got rung up looking. He drew a line in the right-handed batter's box and he stepped over the plate and he didn't look at the umpire. He didn't even make eye contact or turn around, he didn't say a word. He just stepped over the batter's box, drew the line, kept walking and was heated and he ejected him immediately.
Fouts: [The umpire] was wrong. He was dead-ass wrong. He rung him up on a pitch that was way outside. It was what it was, like the guy was trying to get a rise out of him. He eyed him the whole time, both at-bats. Again, very evidently trying to get an emotional rise out of him. He struck out and Bryce drew a line in the dirt and walked away. He knew he couldn't do it. He got thrown out.
Larson: He got thrown out because he's Bryce Harper.
Sato: Looking back on it now, it doesn't really surprise me that something like that would happen. That some adult would try to show up a 17-year-old. He was trying to take over the show. I've just seen too many instances throughout the year where it was almost like coaches and umpires and teams were just trying to prove to us and to Bryce that, like, We can show them up.
Campbell: He sat in the dugout and just stared off into space for a little bit until they came over and said, You have to leave. You have to leave the field and go sit on the bus.
Scott: I remember being kind of wide-eyed. We all looked around and went, Oh, no. And then it was like, instant click, Get your shinguards on, you're going in. But we couldn't believe he had done that and that he had gotten tossed. He knows now he can't do that.
Cook: The stands were completely full and some. It was standing room only there and it was because of Bryce. Yeah, they wanted to see some baseball, but if we're being honest with ourselves, it was Bryce. And I walked up to the box and sure enough I see the line in the right-handed batter's box. It was kind of like just an eerie feeling in the stadium, now that Bryce was gone.
Jones: That stadium was packed to see him. And as soon as that happened, it was like a shockwave, man. You turned and looked in the stands and people are just getting up and leaving.
Aaron Kurcz, Sophomore, Closer: [San Jacinto] just acted like they had won the World Series. Like, that was the game for them. Once Bryce was done, they went nuts. I had never seen the reaction like that for somebody being ejected. Obviously, it's Bryce getting ejected, so they're going to be excited. I don't think I'll forget how happy the other team was for him getting kicked out of the game.
Iodence: I think, just his presence, he made the team stronger. We kind of felt invincible.
Cook: It was just kind of surreal. Like, Is this really happening to us right now? Because whether or not he was hitting home runs every at-bat, just with him in the lineup, it was different for everyone. Everyone was seeing better pitches if Bryce was in the lineup. We knew that it was going to be tough.
Smith: That was such a huge moment of the game because of how intense it was between the two teams. It's such a battle going back and forth and obviously both teams are battling to go to the world championship game, stuff like that. So much tension and when he got ejected, I feel like it was a big rally killer. I honestly felt like we had the momentum coming on our side and it was just that rally killer feel that happened. It was such a bad call, you know, and basically the momentum shifted within seconds. The environment changed then. We tried to put too much pressure on ourselves as a whole, and still playing the game of baseball, still grinding it out. I think we tried to do too much.
CSN lost the game, 10-8, setting up a win-or-go home contest the next day against Iowa Western. They would have to play without Harper, who was automatically suspended for the next game after accruing his second ejection of the season.
Jones: We went and got on the bus, we ended up losing and getting on the bus and going back to the hotel. He's giving us a hug after we got off the bus and apologizing to everyone for doing that.
Scott: I also remember going back to the room, because we were rooming together, and him feeling so bad for kind of letting the team down for being sent from the game, to the extent that he was crying.
Roach: Everyone got fired up and we took on an us-against-the-world attitude, or us-against-the-circumstances attitude of what was happening.
Campbell: I think we were supposed to go with Donnie Roach [going into the next] game. Bryan asked for the ball and said he wanted to throw. He wanted to throw for his brother. At that point in time, you're not going to tell him no. You can't tell anybody they can't have the ball if they're asking for it. He went out and pitched his tail off. I think he was so emotionally [invested] — he was drawing the 3-4 in the dirt before the game.
Medina: We all wore the eyeblack that [Bryce] wore, smeared down his face. Scott Dysinger, he wore Bryce's jersey the next game. He wore 34.
Campbell: Before getting on the bus, Bryce came in my room and he's just joking and he was like, Gotta go get them today. Make something happen. I kind of was like I got you. Tapped him on the shirt and said I got you bro. Hit a home run and still, to this day, I don't know how — it just came to me like that — I hit the home run and I hit home plate. His parents were sitting next to my parents and I remember, hitting home plate, seeing his dad and just immediately put up a 3-4 with my fingers. I remember his dad standing up and I think I still have the pictures. His dad stands up and he kind of points, and everyone's hyped after that.
CSN scored five runs in the eighth and ninth innings to carry a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. Joe Robinson, pitching in relief of Bryan Harper, retired two batters but let in a run, with another runner on second base. Chambers opted to call on closer Aaron Kurcz to record the final out. Kurcz then gave up a two-run, walkoff home run. CSN lost 9-8, and was eliminated from the Junior College World Series.
It marked the end of Bryce Harper's junior college career. For many of his teammates, it marked the end of the most impactful baseball experience of their lives.
Campbell: I think it took such an emotional toll on us. We got to that last inning of the game and we just got to the finish line and we were just gassed. We couldn't just even finish. The wheels just fell off. We had Kurcz, who had been our guy in the closer role all year, and he gives up the walk off. Joe Robinson had been lights out all year for us — he has trouble in that inning. I hadn't even made an error all year. That day, it was a little overcast and the outfielders kept sunglasses on, sunglasses off, sunglasses on, sunglasses off — trying angles. I go sunglasses on, sunglasses off, sunglasses back on. Lose the ball in the sun. My first error of the year comes at that point in time. Just how it unfolded, the events, it was so emotionally draining for everybody. After the game, we go, How did we lose that? How did that unfold like that?'
Fouts: It was unbelievable how close they were. I'm talking about for me, as well. This is my tenth year coaching college baseball, [with] four years at CSN. There was no group closer than that group. I mean that. There's no group I've ever coached that was more emotional to say goodbye and know they were never going to play together again. It's not even close.
Jones: It was almost like, Holy shit, these are my friends I go to battle with, day in and day out, and now that's not going to happen anymore. Getting on that bus ride and heading home, it was difficult. You've got everybody on the team practically in tears hugging each other. We have the last stretch of 30 miles to Las Vegas. We got back to our cars and everybody started getting up and walking around and bullshitting each other and hugging it and telling everyone how much they loved it and enjoyed the season. Because it was special, man. It was a great group of guys. A lot of us will never be part of something like that ever again.
Roach: It was probably the most fun I've ever had playing baseball in my whole career. Everyone just gelled. It's kind of hard to find personalities, especially in baseball — they're all confident individuals with their own personalities — to gel like we did. A lot of those guys are still my best friends to this day. Some of them were groomsmen in my wedding. A lot of us are still playing pro ball. We all work out together in the offseason.
Sato: It was still one of those seasons that you knew everyone was going to be lifelong friends, that you know it would be a season of baseball that you would never forget. Because you were witnessing some really cool things, and it wasn't just Bryce only. You knew there were going to be multiple guys who were on this team that were going to play in the major leagues.
Cook: On teams I'd played on before, there was always a competition within. You would kind of rooting for a guy you were competing with sometimes to strike out in a situation, so you'd get the opportunity. But on this team, I didn't feel that at all. I didn't see that at all. Everyone was pulling for everyone. They wanted everyone to do their best. It was all about the team and getting ultimately that World Series championship.
Scott: You wish you could play with that team forever. When I was at UNLV, we were saying, Yeah, UNLV's facilities are much nicer, all this stuff. But if I could have played with that team for three years, like a four-year school, that's all I would have wanted to do.
Medina: My best memory, if people ask me, I'll tell them: My freshman year, when we went to the World Series and I played with Bryce Harper. It was my greatest, best baseball memory ever.
All told, eight players from the 2010 roster were selected in that summer's draft. Harper, as expected, was selected first overall by the Nationals. Donn Roach went next, in the supplemental portion of the third round, to the Angels. They were followed by Kenny McDowall (8th round, Mets), Aaron Kurcz (11th round, Cubs) and Chasen Shreve (11th round, Braves). Bryan Harper was also selected by the Nationals, in the 27th round.
Tim Chambers was appointed head coach at UNLV, and recruited nine CSN players in his initial signing class. "It's piggybacking off the last [year] — we wanted to stay together," says Ryan Scott, one of those nine.
Six years later, whether they're playing or retired, many of the CSN players still keep in touch with Bryce Harper. But they're all watching. They say that the person they know is far different from the player who is perceived as one of baseball's lightning rods.
Sato: [The reaction] I always get when people found out that I played with him was, just, like Oh, he's such a dick. Really, that's the complete opposite of the Bryce that I got to know while I was there.
Higa: As far as how the media portrays him, I know there's little stuff that he does where they try to make him a worse person than he is. There's just going to try and find something to make him look bad. But I've never really experienced or encountered, me personally, him being a bad person. As far as that, I think he's a great kid as far as what the media portrays him to be.
Larimer: A lot of those guys who are off that team and aren't in baseball anymore, Bryce still stays in touch with a lot of them. He's never treated anyone like they're below him. Even since he made the major leagues, he's always treated us like a friend.
Medina: I'd always tell him, You better not forget me when you're in the bigs. And he doesn't. We still talk.
Jones: I remember going to my locker, sitting there next to him, and I look in my locker and there's a new pair of shoes. I'm like, where did these come from?' He's like, Those are for you, man. Thanks buddy! His first year in A-ball, I fly back to go see him and he picks me up from the hotel. We go to lunch before the game. He reaches in his backseat, hands me another box of shoes. I'm like, what are these for?' They're for you. That's one of those things, he's special that way. He doesn't have to do that, you know? He's a good guy. When we were at Salt Lake Community, my whole family wanted to come up and meet him. He's like, Yeah, let's do it.
Larimer: He still comes out to the field and hits in the offseason. We're real fortunate, every year, he sends me about five boxes with about six to seven bats in each box, because we swing wood bats in our conference. He's been really generous in his donations giving back to the program now after he's gone.
Campbell: How he is, off the field, just sitting at home with the family, watching a movie or back with the fellas — completely different than how he is between the lines. He's one of the more intense guys I've ever been around playing the game, but he has his moments where it's I'm going to laugh, I'm going to play a prank, I just want to joke around and do these things. Just like anybody else. But I think it's hard for people to grasp when you see someone that good have that kind of attitude and do the things they do, you don't want to accept it. You want to find a problem with that person. That's all it is.
McDowall: They talk about when he blew the kiss to the umpire that one time and everyone hated him since then. But I know for a fact Bryce is never a person that's showed up anybody until they started blowing it all out of proportion. Their team was either chirping at him or did something, because I know Bryce doesn't do that unprovoked. He never has. He's always just played ball but if people want to add a little extra, he'll add a little extra right back. So when he hit the home run and blew the kiss, I'm thinking, Attaboy. Whatever he did, he deserved it.
Campbell: He's going to be in your face. I'm going to kick your ass, say what I want to say, beat you. Pretty much beat you. And if you're going to pop off at me, I'm going to embarrass you.
Roach: I think a lot of people don't see the amount of passion he has for the game and his craft and what he does. When someone who's really passionate and they care that much, if you're not one of those types of people, you don't really understand the way they react to things, the things they say and do. I don't think people see that. They don't know. They don't see how hard he works and how much time he puts in. You can see the passion in the way he plays but I don't think people understand that because I think it's a very rare trait in people to be as passionate as he is and committed. And, shit, man, he's 23 years old. He's still a kid. Most people think about what they were doing at 23 and they probably didn't even know what they were going to do at 23. He's one of the best players or best at his profession in the world.
The Washington Nationals declined to make Harper available for this story.
Where Are They Now?
Marvin Campbell: Cadet, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue – Las Vegas, Nevada
Trent Cook: Sales Representative, GT Sales – Salt Lake City, Utah
Ray Daniels: Chiropractic Student at Life West Chiropractic College – Hayward, California
Scott Dysinger: Recruit, Henderson Fire Department – Henderson, Nevada
Cooper Fouts: Catchers Coach, Pepperdine University – Malibu, California
Danny Higa: Towerman for TECHISCO – Las Vegas, Nevada
Tyler Iodence: Medical Student at Campbell's University of Osteopathic Medicine – Buies Creek, North Carolina
Taylor Jones: Pitching Coach at Juan Diego High School – Salt Lake City, Utah
Trevor Kirk: Medical Sales Rep – Las Vegas, Nevada
Aaron Kurcz: Triple-A in Oakland Athletics system – Midland, Texas
Taylor Larsen: Student at Utah State University – Logan, Utah
Sean Larimer: Assistant Coach at College of Southern Nevada – Las Vegas, Nevada
Kenny McDowall: As of March 2016, last tried out for the Quebec Capitales of the CanAm League.
Matt Medina: Works at Depot Training Center, a crossfit gym – Tooele, Utah
Donn Roach: Triple-A in the Seattle Mariners system –Tacoma, Washington
Casey Sato: Academic advisor at University of Utah for men's and women's basketball – Salt Lake City, Utah
Ryan Scott: Assistant Slot Director, M Resort – Las Vegas, Nevada
Burke Seifrit: Carpentry apprentice – Surrey, British Columbia.
Kyle 'Kaz' Smith: Private Baseball Coach – Las Vegas, Nevada