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Phenom Bryce Harper visits Akron

By Michael Published: August 16, 2011

Akron witnessed “The Chosen One” play basketball firsthand for several years.

Tuesday night, fans in attendance at Canal Park got the opportunity to see “Baseball’s Chosen One” for the first time in person.

LeBron James and Bryce Harper were each given those nicknames by the headline writers at Sports Illustrated while they were in high school.

James dominated at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 and has since established himself as a standout in the National Basketball Association for the Cavaliers and now the Miami Heat at the age of 26.

Harper, 18, dazzled fans at Las Vegas High School and then Southern Nevada Junior College and is now climbing the minor league ladder with hopes of one day starring in Major League Baseball after being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010 by the Washington Nationals.

“It is probably tough for him. He is 18 years old and everyone in that clubhouse is at least 22 years old.” Aeros left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland said of Harper, who started in left field and batted fifth for the Harrisburg Senators on Tuesday.

“He has guys that are four, five and six years older than him. I bet it is real tough on him, but he is a good player.”

McFarland is the youngest player on the Aeros roster, having turned 22 on June 8. He was selected by the Cleveland Indians out of Stagg High School Palos Hills, Ill. in the fourth round (No. 137 overall) of the June 2007 draft.

McFarland was 17 when he got drafted and made it to Double-A Akron for one appearance last year. He impressed at Class-A Kinston last year with an 11-5 record and a 3.13 ERA, and continues to impress with a 9-6 record and a 3.75 ERA this year for Akron.

“I guess when you get to Double-A you don’t really realize that you are that close to The Show until you actually start seeing guys moving up and you start seeing them in the big leagues, and you’re like ‘Wow, I literally just played with this guy two weeks ago,’” McFarland said.

James impressed immediately in the NBA with his scoring and passing offensively, and with his intensity and effort defensively. Scout rave about Harper's ability to hit for power, run the bases and throw the ball. 

Harper started this season at Class-A Hagerstown where he played in 72 games and posted a .318 batting average with 82 hits in 258 at bats, 14 home runs, 46 runs batted in and 19 stolen bases.

Harper was promoted to Harrisburg on July 4 and entered Tuesday batting .256 (31-for-121) in 35 games with three home runs, 12 RBI and seven stolen bases.

Aeros shortstop Juan Diaz, 22, agreed with McFarland and said the transition to being two steps away from the Majors at such a young age must be difficult.

“I have seen him play, and he is pretty good,” Diaz said.

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