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Bryce’s great expectations

Not long in Syracuse, Harper part of long history of baseball prodigies

In front of 37,000, Clyde won his first start – the worst thing that could have possibly happened. Not caring one bit about his physical or emotional development, Texas had Clyde start 17 more times in that ’73 season, and he never got better, instead developing serious arm trouble. Eight years, two teams and one comeback attempt later, David Clyde was finished, at 26.

Then there’s the instance where a little bit of both scenarios unfold – namely, Dwight Gooden. Doc had his first full season with the Mets at 19, won the pitching Triple Crown and Cy Young at 20, and helped his team win a World Series at 21. Cooperstown seemed inevitable.

Yet we all know now that it was way too much, way too soon. Gooden’s descent into drug abuse and other off-the-field woes is well-chronicled. Simply put, he couldn’t handle overwhelming fame, and it trumped his immense pitching talent.

This brings us to Bryce Harper. What he got was something none of the above-mentioned teen stars had to worry about, which was a Niagara of publicity capped by an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated, when he was 16. Just try and stay humble when that happens.

That’s one knock about Harper, that he brings a cocky attitude to the diamond. It led to some rough spots in his rise through the minor leagues, though no one bothers to point out that, in baseball, without a lot of self-confidence, there’s no way you make it to The Show.

Besides, the physical gifts are something to behold, as the Dodgers found out in that first game. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Harper possesses a well-honed swing from the left side with easy power, and he hits lots of screaming line drives. That first hit traveled close to 400 feet and almost was a home run, and more doubles followed, two of which led to wins at home against Arizona. He runs pretty well, too, and hustles every time to first base.

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