With the clock about to strike midnight on the East Coast, Bryce Harper was trying to do his best to relax. But he was running out of breathing room.
Finally, more than two months after the Washington Nationals selected him No. 1 overall in the Major League Baseball draft, and after a tense last minute of negotiations, the 17-year-old was able to breathe a sigh of relief.
"Twenty seconds before the deadline," he said, "we got it done."
Harper, a former Las Vegas High School and College of Southern Nevada star, reached an agreement with the Nationals on a five-year, $9.9 million contract Monday.
"I knew everything would go down to the wire," said Harper, surrounded by his parents, Ron and Sheri, and older sister, Brittany, at their Las Vegas home.
"I've been waiting for this my whole life. I'm really excited about it. I'm going to enjoy it with my family. I'm really thankful for everything that has happened. This is awesome."
On the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16 because of his extraordinary talents as a power hitter, Harper left high school after his sophomore year and enrolled at CSN amid some controversy. But the plan he laid out paid off.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound Harper batted .443 with 31 home runs and 98 RBIs last season to lead the Coyotes to the Junior College World Series. The Nationals made him the top pick of the draft on June 7.
"Everything has worked out for the best right now," he said. "It's been really emotional and a lot of fun."
In Washington, where team president Stan Kasten and general manager Mike Rizzo had a news conference to announce the deal, there also was relief after the midnight deadline.
"The truth is, with a full minute to go, Mike and I both thought we were not going to have a deal," Kasten said. "It was inside the last minute."
Harper, represented by agent Scott Boras, monitored the talks at home with Kurt Stillwell, Boras' assistant.
"Suffice it to say, both sides gave up ground at the last second to get the deal done," said Rizzo, who indicated Harper will soon be assigned to a Gulf Coast League team in Florida.
"In my opinion, Bryce is the best amateur baseball player of all time," said his former CSN coach, Tim Chambers, now the University of Nevada, Las Vegas coach. "Nobody did what this kid did, not even Mickey Mantle or Alex Rodriguez."
Harper's contract includes a signing bonus of $6.25 million. He receives salaries of $500,000 each in 2011 and 2012, $750,000 in 2013, $900,000 in 2014 and $1 million in 2015.
"I'm really excited to go prove myself," Harper said. "I want to prove that that's what I'm worth."
If the talks had broken down, Harper said he was prepared to return to CSN for another year and re-enter the draft in 2011.
"I really preferred to play pro ball," he said. "That's been my dream since I was 8, 9 years old. I'm thankful we got everything done, and I want to get (to the major leagues) as soon as possible."
Contact sports reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans @reviewjournal.com or at 702-387-2907.