Probably one of the most talked about and talented baseball players in the major leagues has been Bryce Harper. Whether you talk to any of his biggest fans or those who have often criticized his behavior on the field, he has definitely drawn a lot of attention for his emotional intensity, and occasional outbursts. Several weeks ago, this all-star player was in the news for receiving a one-game suspension for yelling at the home plate umpire over his calls when one of Harper's teammates struck out at the plate. Because of that incident, sports reporters talked about his angry outburst and questioned his ability to manage his emotions.

Going from high school to college and the pros in one year

To better understand this player, and to see what makes him so successful, I read "Phenom: The Making Of Bryce Harper" by Rob Miech. Miech was given an opportunity to follow Harper when he joined the baseball team at the College of Southern Nevada for their 2010 season. Harper left high school after his sophomore year and got his GED so that he could enter college. In only two years at Las Vegas High, he hit .599 as a freshman, .626 as a sophomore, was named the National High School Player Of The Year by Baseball America, and found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He would only play one year in college before being selected first by the Washington Nationals in the Major League Baseball draft in June, 2010.

Embracing his Mormon faith

So, what makes Bryce tick? According to Miech, there have been some major influences in his life that explain what moves and motivates him. The first place to look was at the inscription on his bat - Luke 1:37. From reading the Bible at the beginning and end of each day to sharing scriptures with others, Harper has tried to embrace his Mormon faith and being a Christian.

His grandfather had convinced him that baseball could serve as his mission; instead of serving the two-year commitment that was encouraged by the Mormon elders.

Love for the game

Along with his faith, Bryce simply loved the game of baseball. From the poster and cards of Mickey Mantle on his bedroom wall to wearing the number 7 or 34 to honor Mickey, Bryce wanted to be like and play like many of his heroes in the game; including Willie Mays and Pete Rose.

Bryce was and is simply one of those athletes who uses anything that he can to inspire and drive him to elevate his play. Whether it's the black eye grease on his face, writing his girlfriend's name on the inside of the baseball cap, or even using the criticisms or challenges from the players of opposing teams, everything was used to up his game. One great example that Miech talked about in his book happened in Bryce's first college game. In the 8th inning, Bryce came up to bat. After the pitcher threw the first ball wide of home plate, Bryce turned to the home plate umpire and asked how far over the plate he could reach to swing at a pitch. Then the pitcher threw two more wide pitches. Bryce reached over home plate and hit the ball to deep left field for a sacrifice fly...and another run for his team.

In reading Miech's book, it is very clear that one of the most influential people in his life was Bryce's father -- Ron Harper. Bryce always talked about how much he admired his father and considered Ron his hero. And probably one of the most telling comments in the whole book came from his father: "I always tell my boys, be John Wayne out there. Be a gunslinger," stated Ron.

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