Book Review: The Last Natural – Bryce Harper’s Big Gamble in Sin City by Rob Miech

I was searching for a summer baseball book when the perfect storm came together.

Bryce Harper got called up to the big leagues and a few weeks later I discovered one of the best all-around reads in existence for the hardcore baseball fan. I had the chance to talk to the author of The Last Natural, Rob Miech; on The Baseball Show podcast prior to picking up my copy. It gave me an excellent glimpse that if you wanted to get an up close look at who Bryce Harper really is, this was a must-read.

And that’s what I enjoyed most about the book. But there’s so much more involved.

Miech mixes wonderful anecdotes about Bryce Harper’s last amateur season which was played at College of Southern Nevada. From the opening pages of the book, you’ll be able to smell the pine tar. That’s no joke, because Harper sought out a college conference in which he could hit with a wood bat in order to best showcase his talent for pro scouts.

The ‘gamble’ is not just a play on words either. There was a lot at stake for this book to become the magical story that it did. If Harper doesn’t go on to do what he did in his one college season, there’s no real basis for a book for Miech in the first place. A flop by Harper in the Scenic West Athletic Conference and he might not become the number one overall pick. Spoiler alert: Harper delivers, and in a big way.

I played college baseball, and as you get to know the characters surrounding Harper in the book–a group of Major League prospects–it takes me back to the days I spent in the dugout with my own teammates. The inside jokes that become a second language, the tight losses that define a season, the road trips, and the culmination of it all in one or two huge moments.

Back to the part of the book that kept me turning pages, getting to know the biggest generational talent of our lifetime. In reading this book you’ll find out exactly where Bryce Harper came from and what his family is like. You’ll learn what causes Harper to have such strong convictions and what kind of talent he aspires to be. There simply isn’t a text in existence that will allow you to feel like you get to know Bryce Harper better than this book does.

There are times in his final amateur season that the tension could be cut with a knife. It’s almost not comprehensible to a normal person that an 18-year old kid could have this much on his shoulders and still succeed. Harper not only succeeds with his own personal accolades by posting a Ruthian slash line, but through many quotes from his Southern Nevada teammates you learn exactly what kind of teammate Harper is. Willing to run through a wall for a win, the author shows us the price Harper is willing to pay to get a Junior College World Series ring.

The Last Natural steps to the plate in the bottom of the ninth and empties the bases for it’s readers. Miech is an author who understands the game’s roots, and seems to grasp that his subject does as well. Harper is a student and historian of the game of baseball, hoping to shape his game after some of the greats that our fathers grew up watching.

If you are a die-hard baseball enthusiast who wishes for nothing more than spending a lazy day in the bleachers, this is the perfect page turner to gnaw on some sunflower seeds and enjoy.