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MLB: Early influence

MLB’s ‘Chosen One’ credits local for hitting help at young age

Posted: June 12, 2010 10:11 p.m.
Updated: June 13, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals’ No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, smiles during an interview in Newport Beach on Monday. Harper credits Valencia resident Eddie Williams for introducing him to wood bats at a young age.

After baseball's most hyped 17-year-old ever was drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals on Monday in the Major League Baseball First-year Player Draft, he went on the MLB Network.

Bryce Harper was asked a question about how comfortable he was swinging a wood bat.

"When I was younger a guy named Eddie Williams came and hit with me and told me I need to put a wood bat in my hands," Harper said on the air. "I started swinging from a young age ..."

The Eddie Williams he was referring to was Valencia resident and former Major Leaguer Eddie Williams - the father of Valencia baseball player Trey Williams.

"I started crying," Eddie said was his reaction after he heard Harper's words. "That's what you want as a coach, that they don't forget."

The Williams and Harper family have a long relationship, beginning when Harper was a 9-year-old and Trey was roughly a year younger and both living in the Las Vegas area.

Through the years, Harper and Trey have played together on various teams and Eddie was at one point Bryce's hitting coach.

The tales of Harper's enormous talent are true, the Williamses say.

As a 16-year-old, Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline reading: "Baseball's Chosen One."

"He deserved to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 10," Eddie said. "That's how much I believe in Bryce Harper."

He reportedly hit a ball 570 feet as a 15-year-old freshman. At 16, he hit a ball 502 feet at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay. He left high school two years early, getting his general equivalency degree, so he could be eligible for the 2010 draft.

At the College of Southern Nevada this year, he batted .442 with 29 home runs and 89 RBIs during the regular season. In the National Junior College World Series, he hit for the cycle in one game, then hit four home runs in another.

"I saw him hit at a Las Vegas high school. He hits one over the street, it probably goes 480 feet," Trey said. "It was crazy."

Eddie, who was the fourth overall pick in the 1983 draft and played in parts of 10 Major League seasons, introduced Harper to different methods early.

"(His father) used to always ask me about his swing," Eddie said. "We did lessons and all that stuff."

Eddie advised him to start using a heavy wooden bat.

He said at 11 years old, Harper was swinging with a 32-inch, 36-ounce bat.

"After that kid worked with it, he got strong and better, his swing path got better, his balance got better," Eddie said.

Eddie said scouts have talked to him about one of his other students - son Trey.

But he is two years away from possibly being drafted.

If he continues on his current path, there's no question that he will be a draft prospect.



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