LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Bryce Harper's blockbuster deal to play for Philadelphia has set the baseball world on fire, but long before he became baseball's highest-paid man to date he was turning heads in Las Vegas.
The east valley native grew up playing baseball at Las Vegas High School under the direction of Sam Thomas and then played for College of Southern Nevada for coach Tim Chambers.
The outfield fence at CSN in Henderson has Harper's jersey number 34 permanently retired.
"It's neat to think that he was roaming around on this field, nine years ago," said current CSN Head Baseball Coach Nick Garritano.
Garritano said Harper's impact goes beyond his statistics, he was instrumental by placing the college's baseball program on the map.
"Bryce Harper's kind of the face of CSN," said Garritano.
"When you talk to recruits around the country, it's real simple, if they're like 'CSN... College of Southern Nevada?" I say yeah, it's where Bryce Harper played, they go "Oh, where Bryce Harper played!" explained Garritano.
A short distance from the baseball field, Harper family friend Bill "Mad Dog" Madlock said the deal good for the sport.
"It's big for Vegas, it's good for Nevada and it's just good for baseball itself because it brings the younger crowd back into the mix," said Madlock.
Madlock, a 3-time all star, MVP, and 1979 Pittsburgh Pirate World Series Champion, said he knew Harper was destined for great things.
"I worked next to him when his father would bring him to the dugout," said Madlock.
"He used to work so hard at hitting and his concentration, after he got finished hitting, he couldn't sign a ball for something like 5 minutes because he was so intense, he was almost shaking when he was done," added Madlock.
"In the valley, you can play baseball here all year round and I think that's why Vegas is sort of a hotbed for baseball," added Garritano.