Orioles draft picks Josh Hart (L) and Hunter Harvey (R) are introduced… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
Bryan Harvey was living every Little League dad's dream on Tuesday afternoon, watching from the back of the room while his son — the Orioles' first pick in the June draft — was introduced to the media at Oriole Park.
Hunter Harvey, the 22nd overall selection, and Josh Hart, the Orioles' supplemental first-round choice, took part in the brief news conference to announce their first professional contracts, both looking every bit like the fresh-faced high school players they were just a few weeks ago…both accompanied by families bursting with pride.
It's entirely possible that neither one of them really understood all the implications of that heady experience, but Hunter's dad certainly did.
"We've talked about that," Bryan said. "It's not going to be like it is right now where you're hearing everything you want to hear and everybody's really nice. This turns into a job after today. It's a grind. It's a challenge."
He is speaking from experience…a lot of it. Bryan Harvey, if the name hasn't already burst forth from your baseball memory bank, led the American League in saves for the then-California Angels in 1991 and was one of the top closers in the game for a five-year period from 1989-1993. He wasn't a high draft pick — he was signed out of a tryout camp — but he came up through the Angels system and had a very solid career in Southern California and later as a member of the expansion Florida Marlins.
So, we're not talking about some embittered major league wannabe. Baseball really was very, very good to him, but he knows what it takes and he knows how good you've got to be and he has made sure his second son to sign a pro baseball contract is headed off to rookie ball with his eyes wide open.
"It does seem all good from a distance," Bryan said. "We talked about how you're going to be away from home, how things are going to be pretty tough — especially mentally, which to me is the hard part. We can prepare our bodies physically for what we're going to go through, but the mental part of always being away and when things go bad, you're there by yourself. It can get tough, so we've talked quite a bit about that."
If only every prospect had that kind of lifelong preparation, which is probably the reason so many sons of major leaguers make it to the big leagues.
Of course, it doesn't always work out that way. Hunter's older brother, Kris, was a second-round draft choice out of Clemson University in 2005, but has had a star-crossed minor league career and — at 29 — is running out of time to reach the majors.
Hunter Harvey looks more like a kid who just stopped by the DMV to pick up his learner's permit than a top prospect who can drive a ball through the strike zone at more than 90 miles per hour. He looks so young, in fact, that one of the first questions posed to his dad was whether there was any reluctance to let him sign out of high school.
"We kind of had a plan," Bryan said. "This is what we wanted to shoot for. We thought last year, when the velocity got up to 91, 92, 94, that he had a chance to be drafted. And he wants to play professional baseball, so he's very fortunate to go in the first round and we'll see what happens."
Hunter will start out with the Orioles' rookie team in Sarasota, which is quite a distance from the family home in Catawba, N.C., but not so far that his father can't pop in and check on his progress once in awhile.
"I will go and watch," Bryan said. "I don't think anybody knows him as well as I do. I don't think I'm going to have to do anything. Obviously, I'm going to watch and try to give my input and help him as much as I possibly can, but now he's part of the Baltimore Orioles and I know they have the people in place to do the job that needs to be done."
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.