Bryce Harper, a 17-year-old power-hitting catcher from Las Vegas who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a sophomore in high school, hit the jackpot Monday when the Washington Nationals made him the first pick in baseball’s amateur draft.
“It’s what I’ve wanted since I was 7 years old,” he said on the MLB Network.
Cal State Fullerton celebrated the selection of two first-round picks in shortstop Christian Colon, picked No. 4 by the Kansas City Royals, and center fielder Gary Brown, chosen No. 24 by the San Francisco Giants.
Two high school players from Southern California were also first-round choices. Pitcher Dylan Covey from Pasadena Maranatha was selected No. 14 by the Milwaukee Brewers and outfielder Christian Yelich from Westlake Village Westlake was taken No. 23 by the Florida Marlins.
Colon was in his apartment preparing for Monday’s NCAA regional game against Minnesota when he heard his name on the TV.
“I was with my dad and with my teammates,” he said. “We were just sitting around making jokes and kidding around, and it happened. I was so surprised.”
Covey was watching the draft at a friend’s house.
“The whole room erupted and the house was shaking,” he said.
Yelich, a 6-foot-4 power hitter who signed with Miami, said he was in “complete surprise” by the Marlins’ selection but felt satisfaction in what he had accomplished.
“Fourteen years of hard work and more to come,” he said. “It’s overwhelming and awesome.”
Three Southern California high school pitchers were chosen in the compensation round. Barstow’s Aaron Sanchez at No. 34 by the Toronto Blue Jays; Yucaipa’s Taijuan Walker at No. 43 by the Seattle Mariners and Dana Point Dana Hills’ Peter Tago at No. 47 by the Colorado Rockies.
Harper, who got his GED and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada, batted .443 this season with 31 home runs and 98 runs batted in in 66 games. He’s expected to be moved to the outfield. His advisor is Scott Boras, who negotiated a $15.1-million signing bonus for pitcher Stephen Strasburg, last year’s No. 1 pick, also by the Nationals.