Bryce Harper, dubbed “Baseball’s Chosen One” on the latest cover of Sports Illustrated, arrived in Oklahoma on Monday afternoon and quickly got down to the business of baseball.
After flying into Oklahoma City a little after 4 p.m., Harper immediately headed to Lake Hefner Park to play in a summer league baseball game for Westmoore. Harper did his part to dispel the rumors of a family move to Oklahoma City, where family friend and business owner, Kevin Tibbs, has offered his father a job. “Zero, it ain’t gonna happen,” Harper said, when asked the chances of relocating. “No shot.” Harper’s father, Ron Harper, described the situation as fluid, but Bryce Harper says he’s already made up his mind. The tentative plan is for Harper, who will be a junior this fall at Las Vegas High School, to earn his GED and enroll at the College of Southern Nevada, where his brother will also attend in the fall. Harper is playing with the Westmoore summer league team that is coached by Kevin Winterrowd, who coached him at last summer’s USA Baseball Trials in Miami. Some of Westmoore’s players were Harper’s teammates on a summer Elite team. At the plate Monday, Harper looked every bit the phenom he’s been prophesied to be. The 16-year-old recorded hits in all four at-bats during the first game of a doubleheader, highlighted by consecutive home runs. Harper launched the first well beyond the tree line behind the left-field fence during an 11-3 win in a wood bat game against the Oklahoma City Broncos. An inning later, Harper sent the first pitch he saw screaming on a line toward the right-field foul pole for a three-run homer. That had plenty of Harper’s wide-eyed admirers among the modest crowd of about 100 pointing toward the pole and asking, “Did you see that?” Not bad for not having swung a bat in three weeks. Harper’s hiatus came courtesy of an injured left thumb he described as “jammed.” “I’ve been dreaming about hitting,” he said. The left-handed batter (he throws right) was a nightmare for his opponent, the Broncos, a team made up of home-schooled players. Harper finished the doubleheader 6 for 6 with six RBIs, a triple and a stolen base. Harper’s work with the bat made a special impression on one fan in attendance — dinging a white Hummer H3 with a foul ball in his first at-bat of the night. No Broncos baserunner attempted to steal a base while Harper, whose fastball has been clocked at 96 mph, played catcher. Harper struggled in center field in the second game of the doubleheader.