When big Bryce Harper made the cover of Sports Illustrated two weeks ago, I knew we'd soon again be hearing from the 16-year-old 'chosen one.'
But not quite this soon.
On Sunday, the sophomore from Las Vegas found his way into national headlines again when his father announced that Bryce will forgo his final two years of high school and use a GED to enroll in a community college this August. Though it more or less makes a mockery of our education system, the Harpers' plan would make Bryce eligible for the 2010 draft, where he could conceivably be the Nationals' No. 1 pick and eventually join forces with Stephen Strasburg to save Washington baseball from itself.
It's a controversial decision, to be sure, but Ron Harper says he and his son are prepared to hear from the inevitable haters.
"There are going to be critics. I can't worry about what people think," Ron Harper said. "People are going to see what they want to see and say what they want to say. I think this prepares him for life, playing the game of baseball.
"People question your parenting and what you're doing. Honestly, we don't think it's that big a deal. He's not leaving school to go work in a fast-food restaurant. Bryce is a good kid. He's smart, and he's going to get his education."
From my viewpoint, I'm not going to act like a truant officer on Harper's decision when viewed in a vacuum. It's quite clear that Harper has loads of talent, lives to play baseball and has been groomed to play professional baseball ever since he and his family realized that he was much better than everyone else. It's obvious he has that physical attributes to succeed and he'd be drafted in two years anyway, so why delay the inevitable? Is an 18-year-old really that much better equipped to handle the pressures of grand expectations than a 16-year-old? As much as people will want to say that Harper should stay in school like a normal kid, the truth is that whatever normal life he had disappeared the minute he showed up on the cover of a magazine at homes across the country.
Plus, in an age when tennis and golf prodigies leave their families for top-flight academies before the age of 10 and future basketball studs are identified in the sixth grade, what's the problem with Harper setting out on a very defined career path? Being the top pick in the draft could net him $20 million or more, so making a play while the chips are on his side is just simply a smart move — especially in the volatile world of baseball talent.
The problem I do have with it, though, is that there are no doubt thousands of delusional parents who will see this news and think that maybe it's a viable path for their nowhere-near-as-talented sons and daughters. While the Harpers can't make their decision based on what other lemmings might do, I hope the door closes behind them.
What do you think?