Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper and his father, Ron, at the ballpark at Las Vegas High School, where Harper set records. The Nats drafted him with the first overall pick last year.

Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper and his father, Ron, at the ballpark at Las Vegas High School, where Harper set records. The Nats drafted him with the first overall pick last year.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

"People say Bryce is an old-school player," Ron says. "You're damn right, he is. He'd better be. ... Because there's nothing wrong with a little hard work. Blue-collar attitude. Strap it on, and let's go. That's the way I am, and that's the way I raised my kids to be."

"People say Bryce is an old-school player," Ron says. "You're damn right, he is. He'd better be. ... Because there's nothing wrong with a little hard work. Blue-collar attitude. Strap it on, and let's go. That's the way I am, and that's the way I raised my kids to be."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper works on fundamental drills as an outfielder in the instructional league last fall in Viera, Fla. Harper left Las Vegas High School after his sophomore year, got his GED and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada to move up his eligibility for the Major League Baseball draft.

Harper works on fundamental drills as an outfielder in the instructional league last fall in Viera, Fla. Harper left Las Vegas High School after his sophomore year, got his GED and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada to move up his eligibility for the Major League Baseball draft.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper loosens up before batting practice  in Viera, Fla.  He has hit 500-foot home runs  and was hailed as "Baseball's Chosen One" on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16.

Harper loosens up before batting practice in Viera, Fla. He has hit 500-foot home runs and was hailed as "Baseball's Chosen One" on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper, meeting fans last fall in Scottsdale, Ariz., relishes the public component of stardom. "I think it's fun being in the newspaper. I love talking to the media. It's a blast," Harper says. "I love people knowing where I came from and what I'm about."

Harper, meeting fans last fall in Scottsdale, Ariz., relishes the public component of stardom. "I think it's fun being in the newspaper. I love talking to the media. It's a blast," Harper says. "I love people knowing where I came from and what I'm about."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Ron Harper with the piece of rebar Bryce would use to practice swings at home in Las Vegas.

Ron Harper with the piece of rebar Bryce would use to practice swings at home in Las Vegas.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Bryce Harper  in a Las Vegas gym.

Bryce Harper in a Las Vegas gym.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper wipes away sweat during an early morning workout. "I want to be the best," Harper says. "I want to be perfect in every aspect of the game."

Harper wipes away sweat during an early morning workout. "I want to be the best," Harper says. "I want to be perfect in every aspect of the game."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper picks up an empty bowl of cereal  from the floorboard of his work truck after a morning workout  in Las Vegas. At 18, Harper straddles childhood and adulthood.

Harper picks up an empty bowl of cereal from the floorboard of his work truck after a morning workout in Las Vegas. At 18, Harper straddles childhood and adulthood.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper helps with the dishes in his family's Las Vegas home.

Harper helps with the dishes in his family's Las Vegas home.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper with his mother, Sheri. "I'm going to miss him like heck," she says of her son leaving home. But she's not worried: "It starts with love in the home," she says. Give them that, "and they will respect you and be honorable. They will not purposely disgrace the name on their back."

Harper with his mother, Sheri. "I'm going to miss him like heck," she says of her son leaving home. But she's not worried: "It starts with love in the home," she says. Give them that, "and they will respect you and be honorable. They will not purposely disgrace the name on their back."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper's Little League batting helmet. He "played up" for most of his childhood: When he was 3, he was good enough to play on his brother's T-ball team, for 5- and 6-year-olds. By age 9, Harper was being recruited for "travel ball" teams.

Harper's Little League batting helmet. He "played up" for most of his childhood: When he was 3, he was good enough to play on his brother's T-ball team, for 5- and 6-year-olds. By age 9, Harper was being recruited for "travel ball" teams.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper has a Bible verse imprinted on his bats instead of his name.

Harper has a Bible verse imprinted on his bats instead of his name.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Las Vegas High School coach Sam Thomas lets Harper work out with his old team. "Bryce knows one way to play, and that's, 'I'm going to go as hard as I can all the time,' " Thomas says.

Las Vegas High School coach Sam Thomas lets Harper work out with his old team. "Bryce knows one way to play, and that's, 'I'm going to go as hard as I can all the time,' " Thomas says.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper works out with his friends from Las Vegas High. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound prodigy, who would be a  senior now if he had stayed in high school, signed a $9.9 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

Harper works out with his friends from Las Vegas High. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound prodigy, who would be a senior now if he had stayed in high school, signed a $9.9 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper works out with his old team from  Las Vegas High. "[Leaving] was the best thing he could've done," high school coach Sam Thomas says. "He was like a guy ready for his master's degree in a fifth-grade classroom."

Harper works out with his old team from Las Vegas High. "[Leaving] was the best thing he could've done," high school coach Sam Thomas says. "He was like a guy ready for his master's degree in a fifth-grade classroom."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper, left, with best friend and former high school teammate Tanner Chauncey. "He's real humble -- a lot of people don't get that about him," Chauncey says. But he also says Harper has often told him, "I want to be the best player ever to play the game."

Harper, left, with best friend and former high school teammate Tanner Chauncey. "He's real humble -- a lot of people don't get that about him," Chauncey says. But he also says Harper has often told him, "I want to be the best player ever to play the game."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper with Las Vegas High outfielders coach Clint Huggins. Harper grew up playing catcher but can play most any position; the Nationals will make him a right fielder.

Harper with Las Vegas High outfielders coach Clint Huggins. Harper grew up playing catcher but can play most any position; the Nationals will make him a right fielder.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Battered baseballs fall to the ground as Harper practices at Las Vegas High.

Battered baseballs fall to the ground as Harper practices at Las Vegas High.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper has a laugh during a workout with his old high school team.

Harper has a laugh during a workout with his old high school team.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Members of the Las Vegas High team watch Harper at batting practice.

Members of the Las Vegas High team watch Harper at batting practice.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper's baseball heroes include Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. "I'm a real mean person on the field," Harper says. "I play the game hard, real hard. I respect everyone on the field. But if you're on the other team, even if we're buddies, I hate you. I'm trying to beat you. I'm going to knock your teeth out. I'm trying to win."

Harper's baseball heroes include Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. "I'm a real mean person on the field," Harper says. "I play the game hard, real hard. I respect everyone on the field. But if you're on the other team, even if we're buddies, I hate you. I'm trying to beat you. I'm going to knock your teeth out. I'm trying to win."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Harper douses his face with water after his first workout of spring training in Viera, Fla. Instead of his new Mercedes, Harper brought his work truck to spring training. "That's my work truck," Harper says. "I want everyone to know I'm there for work."

Harper douses his face with water after his first workout of spring training in Viera, Fla. Instead of his new Mercedes, Harper brought his work truck to spring training. "That's my work truck," Harper says. "I want everyone to know I'm there for work."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

Fans mob Harper during spring training.

Fans mob Harper during spring training.

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post

"I love the game of baseball," Harper says. "I'm getting chills right now about it. I absolutely love the game of baseball. If you took it away from me, I'd die tomorrow. Seriously. I'd want to kill myself. I absolutely love the game of baseball."

"I love the game of baseball," Harper says. "I'm getting chills right now about it. I absolutely love the game of baseball. If you took it away from me, I'd die tomorrow. Seriously. I'd want to kill myself. I absolutely love the game of baseball."

Jonathan Newton-The Washington Post