Harper plays it cool as hours dwindle to sign with Nationals

A summer break from baseball turned out to be exactly what Bryce Harper needed.

After being selected No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals in the major league draft June 7, Harper escaped the media spotlight and used some vacation time.

He took a fishing trip to Oklahoma. He hit the beach in California. He hung out with friends in Las Vegas.

"I had a blast," he said. "I tried to enjoy some time with the family."

What he did not do was sign a contract with the Nationals. But a lengthy delay was expected, and he still has two days to get a deal done. The deadline for draftees to sign is midnight EST Monday.

Harper, represented by agent Scott Boras, said he has "no idea" how contract negotiations are going. Boras and Washington general manager Mike Rizzo just recently started talking seriously, and if they reach an agreement, it could come at the last minute.

Boras also represented last year's top pick, pitcher Stephen Strasburg from San Diego State. Boras and the Nationals struck that deal -- four years and $15.1 million -- 77 seconds before the clock expired.

Harper said he's not concerned about business. While it's probably true the 17-year-old desperately wants to sign and begin his pro career, he's playing it cool.

The former Las Vegas High School star said he's preparing to return to school and play another year for the College of Southern Nevada.

"Practice starts Monday. I'm really excited about that," said Harper, who batted .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs last season to lead the Coyotes to the Junior College World Series.

"I'm getting ready for the season at CSN. That's where I want to be and that's what I want to do. We've got a really good club coming back, and I'm looking forward to it."

A few things have changed since CSN's season ended in early June.

After the Nationals drafted Harper, Rizzo said they planned to move him from catcher to the outfield to expedite his path to the majors.

Tim Chambers, Harper's former coach, was named UNLV coach June 11, and Chambers took 10 Coyotes players with him. On July 9, Chris Sheff left Bishop Gorman High to take over the CSN program.

Harper's summer has not been just a long vacation. Up to 225 pounds after finishing the season at 205, he has been in the weight room and the batting cage.

"I'm trying to get bigger, faster and stronger," he said.

And on Monday, he plans to report for practice at CSN. But will he be there again Tuesday?

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.