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The Last Natural: Bryce Harper's Big Gamble in Sin City and the Greatest Amateur Season Ever Hardcover – May 22, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“From the best seat in the house, a sportswriter chronicles the final amateur season of perhaps the most hyped baseball prospect of all time. Ever since LeBron James took the basketball world by storm in 2003, other sports have sought their own phenoms, individuals possessed of the talent and charisma to shatter statistical records while drawing in casual fans. Enter Bryce Harper, a baseball-mashing savant who, in order to circumvent MLB draft rules that prohibit a player being drafted until the age of 18 or one year after graduating from high school, earned his GED after his sophomore year and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada in order to hone his skills with a wooden bat and make himself eligible for the draft a year early. Recognizing the uniqueness of the situation, CSN coach Tim Chambers granted Miech full access to the team’s dugout and locker room. From that unique vantage point, the author chronicles Harper’s struggle to adjust to the college game, where his immaturity and fiery competitiveness got him ejected from two games, but where his incredible hitting prowess enabled him to crush 31 home runs, obliterating the previous team record of 12. Miech pays particular attention to Harper’s efforts to balance his desire to fit in with his older teammates with his steadfast dedication to his Mormon beliefs. Though CSN’s season ended short of a championship ring, Harper would win the Golden Spikes award, given annually to the nation’s top amateur, and be selected first overall by the Washington Nationals in the 2010 draft.”—Kirkus Reviews

“In 2010, baseball phenom Bryce Harper—with his parents’ blessing—earned his G.E.D. and joined the College of Southern Nevada’s baseball team as a sophomore, using it as a springboard to get drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals). It was a risk, but a calculated one. Aside from displaying his otherworldly talents in a competitive conference, the 17-year-old was managed by Tim Chambers, a longtime family friend, and played with his older brother, Bryan, a pitcher who had transferred from California State University, Northridge. Both helped contribute to a familial, supportive environment. Veteran sportswriter Miech traveled with the college team for the entire 2010 season, and he captures Harper’s maturation by fire and growing celebrity. Those moments don’t come often enough. Clearly guarded, Harper isn’t exactly an eloquent subject (“It’s just incredible playing with your brother and being around your brother”), while Miech’s constant flaunting of his insider status—the pointless on-the-road chronicles, the skin-deep, distracting profiles of Harper’s teammates and coaches—becomes overbearing. Years from now, the book may be useful in viewing a legend before he was submerged by the avalanche of fame, but readers will still leave with a better understanding of a dedicated junior college baseball team than its superstar alumnus.”—Publishers Weekly

“Like Bryce Harper, Rob Miech has all the tools, and they are on display in THE LAST NATURAL, a compelling, behind-the-scenes account of the making of a phenom.”—George Dohrmann, Pulitzer Prize-winning Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated

"In THE LAST NATURAL, Rob Miech gets the last unfettered access to baseball's next great star, Bryce Harper, before he turns pro, before he can vote, before the handlers and hangers-on and hero-worship descend. The result is a fascinating eyewitness account, a baseball version of the Beatles in Hamburg circa 1961, just before the klieg lights get switched on."—Steve Rushin, Sports Illustrated

"The Last Natural is a remarkable story of Bryce Harper’s action-packed junior-college adventure, told from the vantage point of a tremendous reporter and writer who was fortunate enough to go along on Harper’s unforgettable ride from Morse Stadium to the top of the baseball draft."—Jayson Stark, ESPN.com senior baseball writer

"Rob Miech rides the bench and the buses to craft a stirring story of a young man, an extraordinary dream and an amazing baseball season. Through an insider’s access and a reporter’s eye, Miech lays back the scouting reports to capture the real Bryce Harper—the son, the brother, the teammate and the phenom. Touching and edgy, The Last Natural captures the essence of a hard game made easy by a rare player."—Tim Brown, MLB writer, Yahoo! Sports

"The Last Natural is a fascinating tale of risk, struggle, ambition and triumph. The LeBron James of baseball is brought to life, and all his talents and warts are expertly exposed by an exceptional storyteller. Miech has done what Harper is known for—hitting a spectacular home run. Terrific stuff."—Ed Graney, Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist

About the Author

ROB MIECH has won several awards in his twenty-five-year career as a sportswriter, predominantly at the Pasadena Star-News and Las Vegas Sun. His work has appeared in many publications, including USA Today, The Washington Post, CBS SportsLine, and MLB.com.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250001455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250001450
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rob Miech has written a masterful book on Bryce's Harper that is a must read for baseball fans. He was embedded with the College of Southern Nevada's baseball team during the single season that Harper played there and gives you an insider's perspective of the immense challenges and pressure Harper faced as a 17 year old baseball prodigy. Miech takes you inside the CSN baseball program, earning the trust of the player's and coaches and crafts a story that would make great fiction if it weren't true.

The Last Natural also allows the reader to learn about the real Bryce Harper. He's a warrior on the field but you may be surprised to find out that he is a respectful, polite young man off it. Too many have made judgements about Harper, believing him to be selfish and spoiled (for example, Cole Hamels). You'll find out here that he has a burning competitive desire to get the most out of his exceptional ability. He plays the game very hard, but truly respects it. He's also a seam head, who really knows the history of the game and its players.

As the book's title explains, it was a very big gamble that Harper took. There is no precedent for what he did, blazing a trail that won't likely be followed due to his unique baseball gifts. If he failed playing at this level, critics and skeptics would have been delighted and his baseball career would have likely been derailed. When he should have been a junior in high school, he was playing and excelling with the Southern Nevada Coyotes, competing against athletes who were several years older.

The microscope Harper was under would have wilted most. He can't go anywhere without fans wanting a piece of him, whether it's a picture, an autograph, or to chat. The opposing teams are all gunning for him, trying to beat the best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tiger on January 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Rob Miech wrote" A compelling, behind-the-scenes account of the making of a prodigy"(George Dohrmann). Before Bryce Harper was the number one overall pick in the 2010 Major League baseball draft, he made one of the biggest decisions of his young life. Harper decided to earn his GED after his sophomore year in High School so he could be drafted as a junior in high school. Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which dubbed him as the "most exciting prodigy since Lebron James." During Harper's historic season, he shattered the school home run record hitting 31(formerly 12) and hit an astounding .443 as he led the Coyotes to the junior college world series.
Rob Miech does an amazing job documenting Bryce Harper for the most important year of his life, teaching me along the way to become a baseball player. Eventually Harper won the Golden Spikes award, which is given to the best amateur baseball player in the country. Then, as expected, Harper signed the largest contract ever for an amateur baseball player after being the first overall pick of the MLB draft. After reading this book, I really know what it feels like to be a superstar!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Linda Feldman on June 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bryce Harper's name is now known by every baseball fan in every city. Read this book and get a glimpse of the early development of this young man's dedication and talent. Get to know the people who helped shape his character and cheered him on. You'll be asking every day: "What did Harper do today?"
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By STFmaryville on September 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Sportswriter Rob Miech's book The Last Natural: Bryce Harper's Big Gamble in Sin City and the Greatest Amateur Season Ever is equal parts biography and anecdotes from the year Harper played NJCAA baseball as a College of Southern Nevada Coyote. It shows a wide-angled picture of what it's like for a top-ranked baseball prospect to adjust to college baseball, and then to be the focus of a struggle involving a Major League franchise, millions of dollars, and a young man's hopes, dreams and destiny.

One of my favorite parts of the book described the author's misgivings at being offered nearly unlimited access to the Coyotes baseball program. Miech mentions his nervousness on the first day he sat with the team and its coaches inside its dugout during a game. That opportunity to observe baseball, not from the bleachers or even a press box, is an amazing gift from CSN coach Tim Chambers. I feel that it allowed Miech to more accurately chronicle the season Harper had as a Coyote. It also made me laugh when Miech admitted to helping players hide their use of snuff (fine cut tobacco) from the umpires.

One reason that Harper, advised by his father and surreptitiously by agent Scott Boras, chose to play at CSN was that the Coyotes play in a league that uses wooden bats, an extreme rarity for college baseball. It would help pro scouts get a more accurate assessment of Harper's hitting ability. I also enjoyed Miech's description of an early-season game played against Cypress, which did use aluminum bats. The opponents scored 12 unanswered runs, and coach Chambers got ejected for singing "Three Blind Mice" towards the umpires.

My favorite part of Miech's book isn't directly about Harper, as amazing as that young man's life has been.
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Format: Hardcover
The Last Natural is not a Bryce Harper book. Well, not just a Bryce Harper book. Throughout the pages, Rob Miech weaves a tale of a baseball season like no other, full of a cast of characters that may otherwise go unnoticed had it not been for just the right timing. In 2010 Miech had the unprecedented opportunity to shadow Bryce Harper and the College of Southern Nevada Coyotes in what would be Harper’s final amateur baseball season. The result is a remarkable account that only a writer, so close to a team, yet just enough removed could tell.
Miech’s matter-of-fact, journalistic style forbids him to give a sugarcoated account of a team lead by one of the more highly touted ball players in recent years. The good, the bad, and the ugly are not withheld from the pages, which in the end, love him or hate him, gives us a new perspective of who Harper is. While we might check the current stat lines of Harper’s big league career, or watch his highlights on ESPN, Miech’s uncanny ability to introduce us to the rest of the Coyote team has us consider what they too have done sense that 2010 season. The Last Natural reminds us that the game of baseball has its big time players, but none are bigger than the game itself.
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