As a kid, and he's still just 17, Bryce Harper developed a passion for sports. But baseball was his second choice.
"All I wanted to do was play football," he said.
Harper sometimes would step into the batting cage while wearing his football pads, and that was one of many memories that turned Tim Chambers emotional.
"I've known him since he was a little boy," said Chambers, who coached Harper this season at the College of Southern Nevada. "I knew he was special when he was young."
Harper made history Monday, when he was selected No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals in the major league draft.
A year ago, Harper was finishing his sophomore year at Las Vegas High School. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teen phenom, and his decision to leave high school early created a national media buzz that has followed his every move.
The power-hitting Harper is the first Las Vegas native to be drafted No. 1 in any major professional sport, and he's the first junior-college player to be the top pick in the baseball draft.
Surprisingly, none of it was beyond his wild imagination.
"I never doubted it at all. I've been dreaming about being the No. 1 draft pick since I was 7 years old," said Harper, who abandoned football after breaking his right wrist as a high school freshman.
Harper spent the day in Los Angeles, where he watched the draft in the office of his adviser, agent Scott Boras. Harper was joined by his parents, Ron and Sheri, older brother, Bryan, and older sister, Brittany.
The Harpers went to the beach before the draft, and Bryce said he was calm until MLB Commissioner Bud Selig called his name first.
"I got really emotional really quick because you've been waiting for this day your whole life," Harper said. "My family has been a huge part of this whole thing, and to share it with my family, it's awesome."
Chambers invited CSN coaches, players and the media to a draft party at his home, and cheers erupted when Harper's name was announced.
Harper, who became eligible after earning his high school equivalency test credentials in the fall, batted .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs while leading the Coyotes to last week's Junior College World Series.
"When he made the move to college, there was a lot of criticism. I felt he needed to do it for several reasons," Chambers said. "I knew it was the right move, but for him to do what he did, it's eye-popping to me.
"I won't be shocked to see him two summers from now in that lineup with the Nationals. I know he's going to work his tail off. I'm going to guess we might see him in the big leagues in 2Â½ years, if not sooner."
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said the team is convinced of Harper's talent, and to expedite his path to the majors, the Nationals plan to play him in the outfield instead of using him as a catcher.
"We're going to take the rigor and the pressures of learning the position, the difficult position of catcher, away from him and really let him concentrate on the offensive part of the game," Rizzo said.
The 6-foot-3-inch Harper, whose strong arm is almost as impressive as his power with a bat, said the position switch suits him.
"Anywhere they need me, I'll play. I just want to make it," said Harper, who could command a contract in the $12 million to $15 million range and has until Aug. 16 to sign.
CSN sophomore outfielder Trevor Kirk, a Silverado High graduate, said he witnessed Harper's maturity catch up with his athletic ability.
"He was young, and now he's acting like he's 20, 21 years old like the rest of us. He has become more of a man," Kirk said. "There's a huge difference. He's a different person in a good way.
"Everyone has known he's going to be picked No. 1 for a long time, but to watch everything pan out how it has is an awesome experience."
Chambers has counseled Harper for the past year, coaching his behavior and how to handle emotions.
"Bryce has had all eyes on him all the time. He's grown a lot," Chambers said. "He's 17 years old and getting ready to go out and be the guy. I'm sure he's got some fears and some worries and wonders what it's going to be about now.
"But he's not doing it by himself. I told him, 'You're ready to go.'"
Chambers called CSN's season with Harper the most challenging and enjoyable of his 21-year coaching career, though it ended just short of the Coyotes' national championship goal.
"We knew we were the best team," Harper said, "but sometimes you don't have that storybook ending."
For this 17-year-old, being drafted No. 1 is the beginning of another story.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.