Bryce Harper: Sometimes Prodigies Are Exceptions to the Rule

Mark HauserCorrespondent IIJune 19, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 18:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees grounds out on fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals during their game on June 18, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx Borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Far be it from me not to value and understand the importance of education. After all, I have a law degree and I’m a practicing lawyer with my own business.

Like most people who write about sports, I also played sports growing up and in high school. And like most people who love sports, if I were good enough to play a sport (any sport) professionally, I would have.

And like most people, if I was so super talented that I was good enough to turn professional at age 18, guess what, I would have.

Again, like most people, if had to finish my high school education after the age of 16 in a non-traditional way (such as home tutoring or getting a GED), guess what—I probably would have (if my parents allowed me.)

So, I have a hard time getting worked up over the unusual route that Bryce Harper has decided to take to enter the draft a year earlier. The same goes for Jeremy Tyler whom I wrote about previously.

Now, do I like the statements that their chosen path says about the importance of education (both high school and college), athletics, childhood, and money?

Of course not. 

But, their actions don’t speak for what’s right for all kids nor should they. Society long ago decided that all the rules don’t apply when developing any kind of prodigy.

After all, kids their age are nowhere the talent level of the prodigy. And if you are a prodigy of a talent where you can make lots of money, college serves less of a purpose and/or can wait.

I think almost anyone who has the intellectual capabilities should get a four-year college degree. And of course everyone should get a high school diploma or equivalent. 

But, four years in high school and a traditional high school diploma is an arbitrary line that society had drawn. In some rare exceptions, like these, society will not crumble if they are not followed. 

What is more important is that there are rare exceptions, the exceptions are the correct ones, and the kids have the proper guidance from their parents and other various advisers.

This was not being followed in the NBA draft a few years back and NBA Commissioner David Stern had to implement an age limit rule (19) to save delusional kids from themselves. My guess is that one high school senior every three years or so is talented, mature, big, and strong enough to go straight to the pros without hurting their development or chances in the NBA. 

The last year that the NBA allowed high school seniors to enter the NBA draft, 12 yes 12 high school seniors declared themselves eligible for the draft. This was moronic and they were not the rare exceptions that I am talking about—OK, maybe one of them.

Of course, I am giving this exception my blessing based upon what I read about Harper’s amazing talent. Like hitting 570 foot home runs, throwing a 96 mph fastball, great fielder and arm from both the catcher and third base position (where he will likely end up playing or shortstop or center field) and a .626 batting average on varsity as a sophomore. 

That sounds like a once in a generation talent to me. 

And if he fails at baseball, the last time I checked $20 million dollars is enough to pay for a college education. 

So, relax, this rare exception is not going to prevent the country from winning the war.