Batting in the fifth inning of College of Southern Nevada's Junior College World Series game against top-ranked San Jacinto on Wednesday, the presumed No. 1 overall pick in Monday's First-Year Player Draft took a pitch that he believed was outside. The home-plate umpire believed otherwise and called Harper out on a called strike three.
After standing for a moment in disbelief, the 17-year-old phenom walked across the plate on his way to his dugout. On his way, he drew a line in the dirt with his bat, presumably showing the umpire where he thought that pitch was. That promptly earned him an ejection from the game. College of Southern Nevada lost the game, 10-8.
"Bryce was wrong for doing it, but he didn't deserve that," Southern Nevada coach Tim Chambers said in his postgame comments. "In a situation like this, it deserves a warning. That was an awful quick trigger. Bryce didn't stand there and argue the call. He walked right back to the dugout with his head down -- and bang. In my opinion, it was a terrible call. [Umpire Don Gilmore] definitely wanted to be seen. I'll defend the kid all day long."
Harper's ejection is more costly than just that loss. Because this was his second ejection of the season, according to NJCAA rules, Harper will sit for the next two games, and that could signal an end to his junior college season and career. CSN moves into the loser's bracket of the JUCO tournament and will play Iowa Western Community College on Thursday afternoon, with both teams playing for survival.
If Harper's team can get past Iowa Western on Thursday, it will advance to a game Friday. That very well could be a rematch against San Jacinto, who plays Hutchinson CC on Thursday evening. CSN would have to beat San Jac on Friday to force a final championship game on Saturday in the double-elimination tournament. If that happens, Harper would be back in uniform for that finale. Otherwise, he may have played his last game in a Coyotes uniform.
Harper has garnered a bit of a reputation as a hot-head and his two ejections this season haven't helped in that regard. There are those in Major League Baseball who give Harper poor grades for his makeup, while others see him just as an immature teenager who will grow up as he moves on. After the first time he got thrown out -- by reacting to an opponent's taunting with a bow from the outfield -- Chambers made sure Harper knew more ejections weren't going to help Harper or the team. With a target on his back all season, Harper managed to avoid trouble until Wednesday night.
Now, it might come down to family to at least give Harper a chance of returning to action in Grand Junction, Colo. His older brother and teammate Bryan, a left-handed pitcher on the team who will also be drafted at some point next week, could be called upon to start Thursday's game on two days' rest. The elder Harper beat Faulkner State CC on Monday, but threw just 73 pitches in 5 1/3 innings of work. Right-hander Donn Roach, another viable Draft prospect, could be used in relief.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.