Hype.  Intrigue. Curiosity.  There are many ways to go about describing the emotions that surround the propulsion of a young athlete into the national consciousness.  Last night, baseball’s newest phenom Bryce Harper took to the stage in his first collegiate contest, nationally televised on ESPNU. Not even 18, Harper has found himself on screens in bars and homes around the country for the better part of the last two years. 

The debut couldn’t have happened at a better time for baseball junkies such as myself, as it gives us something to salivate over in the winter months that doesn’t involve contracts, fan fests or illegal streams of Venezuelan baseball.

I contemplated how I should commemorate the moment.  First stop was Wikipedia.  I needed to know why a hot-shot phenom would go to some “no name” JUCO.  But finding out that the College of Southern Nevada was in fact an NJCAA powerhouse wasn’t enough.  Next stop was YouTube, where I watched a couple videos, including the ten minute ESPN feature from a few months back.  Again, the beast could not be sated.  I decided just knowing about the man, the myth, the legend in the making wasn’t enough.  No, I had to take it one step further.  To prepsportswear.com I went.

It was at this point that I realized the absurdity of it all.  Here it was, not even 3/4 of the way through this kid’s FIRST collegiate game and I was gonna go and buy his school’s cap?  Not just any ‘ol Division one lid either.   This was an NJCAA school we were talking about.  It’s engrained in our American DNA the desire to be first, to know something before everyone else, to be the guy that gets the inside joke.  I didn’t really want the cap anymore than high school kids really need a new pair of Air Jordans.  What I really wanted was to be able to tell my baseball buddies “Yeah, I BEEN had that hat.  What rock have you been living under?!?”

I got a feeling Bryce Harper is going to have a fine career, at least, by the standards of the average major leaguer.  But to go ahead and even anoint him as the next Matt Weiters would be an awfully large stretch.  Maybe the fans, scouts, writers and networks can take their/our feet off of the gas a bit and give Mr. Harper a chance to earn the headlines and the airtime.  Heck, even the cap purchases.

The fun starts at around the 4 minute mark.