Bryan, one of Bryce’s closest confidantes, always handles questions about his brother the same way: as an older sibling overjoyed with his younger one’s achievements. As 22-year-old Bryan carves his own path through the Washington Nationals organization as a pitcher on its short-season Class A affiliate, his identity as Bryce Harper’s brother persists. The questions aren’t often about him.
“I’ve grown to embrace it,” said Bryan, sitting in the Auburn Doubledays dugout last month before a game against the Aberdeen IronBirds.
“I’m proud as hell. I’m never going to be bitter that I’m Bryce’s brother. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll ever be bitter about that. I’ll never be jealous of that. Honestly, it’s a great title for me because the fact that my brother is so successful and I’m Bryce’s brother, that’s a great thing.”
The spotlight has shone brightly on Bryce Harper, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, for much of his teenage life and more so now that he has become one of the sport’s most recognizable figures. But through it all, Bryan is trying to create a name for himself.
“It’s unfair actually to Bryan,” Auburn Manager Gary Cathcart said. “It’s nobody’s fault. That’s just the way it is. It’s unfair to him. He’s trying to carve out his own niche here. He’s just getting started.”
“He’s taken that tremendously,” Bryce, 19, said about his brother. “That would be the hardest thing for me, seeing everybody talking about my little brother.”
Before the Nationals selected Bryce, they picked Bryan in the 31st round of the 2008 draft, his senior year. But he attended Cal State Northridge instead because he wanted to experience college and earn a degree.
Early in his freshman season, Bryan realized it wasn’t the best fit for him and transferred to the College of Southern Nevada for the 2010 season. It was closer to home, and the junior college’s coach, Tim Chambers, was a longtime friend of the Harper family. There, Bryan was later reunited with his brother, whom he played with for one season at Las Vegas High when Bryce was a freshman and Bryan was a senior.
The two grew up playing baseball at the same time, starting in T-ball when Bryan was 6 and Bryce was 3. Their father, Ron, would throw batting practice to both. And because Bryce usually competed against older players, they had the same group of friends — which, at times, bugged Bryan. He would tease and elbow Bryce, like any older brother would.
“No one really picked on him because he was just as big as all of us,” Bryan said. But “you don’t want your little brother hanging around all the time.”