Tracking Bryce Harper's Moonshot

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Sports Illustrated claims that Chosen Person Bryce Harper, as a 15-year-old, hit a 570-foot home run in Las Vegas, an anecdote that is equal parts Sidd Finch, Paul Bunyan and Jesus. And I'll be damned: It just might be true.

Tom Verducci writes:

One rainy February day in Las Vegas, home to a fake pyramid, a phony volcano, a faux Eiffel Tower, an ersatz New York skyline, a pirated copy of a pirate ship and the clever sleights-of-hand of magicians and plastic surgeons, Sam Thomas watched two men stretching a tape measure across South Hollywood Boulevard, reaffirming that there was at least one real deal in town. Thomas is the baseball coach at Las Vegas High, and the two men were his assistant coaches. The pair had come out in the rain to revisit the spot where, in a game the previous spring, a baseball had made landfall, a dimple in the desert, a tiny crater left in the sand by a home run off the bat of Las Vegas High catcher Bryce Harper, then a 15-year-old freshman.

The lefthanded Harper had hit the ball over the rightfield fence, two trees, another fence, a sidewalk, five lanes of traffic on elevated South Hollywood Boulevard and yet another sidewalk, until it finally landed in the brown, undeveloped desert. It might as well have been a flying saucer, judging by the grin on Thomas's face as he recalls the distance the ball traveled.

"Five-seventeen," it sounds as if Thomas is saying.

Five hundred seventeen feet?!

"No," Thomas says. Of course not. That would be preposterous. No 15-year-old kid could hit a baseball 517 feet.

"Five-seventy," Thomas clarifies.

Here, via Google Maps, is the baseball diamond at Las Vegas High School. The red pin is roughly 570 feet from home plate, and a ball traveling that approximate path would've indeed cleared, as Verducci writes, "two trees, another fence, a sidewalk, five lanes of traffic," etc.


The ball would've landed in this patch of Vegas moonscape:


And now turn around and look back at the ballpark:

Verducci's description is spot-on. Of course, it's another matter entirely whether anyone could actually find a year-old dimple in the Vegas dirt. But if the kid is at all like the rest of the story suggests, I'm willing to believe anything.

Baseball's Lebron [Sports Illustrated]
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