Draft Takes Final Big Steps On TV

For many fans, it may have been no more than an interesting footnote.
Even for serious fans, it probably just rated as another notable step
in the evolution of the event.

But for people who have followed
the baseball draft for years, the news that it will be televised this
year was nothing short of revolutionary.

ESPN2
will broadcast four hours of draft coverage on June 7. This not only
puts the draft on television for the first time, but it also makes it
an actual event rather than just a telephone call. Teams will gather at
Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando for the early-round
festivities.

Considering how secretive the draft had been for
most of the years since its inception in 1965, this will be a wonderful
day for baseball. Sure it took more than 40 years, but at least it’s
finally happening.

The baseball draft has always been different
from drafts in other sports. Most notably, the sheer number of players
selected has always dwarfed the other sports. Until 20 years ago, there
were drafts in both January and June, with regular and secondary phases
for each (don’t ask). Baseball also has always drafted players from
high schools, junior colleges and four-year colleges, further
complicating matters.

The Quiet Draft

But
the main difference has been the lack of attention, resulting from a
strong desire by baseball to keep the process secret. The main reason
draft information was guarded so closely was to keep players in the
dark about their bargaining position, as well as keeping college
coaches from using draft lists for recruiting help.

And when I
say the information was kept quiet, I mean it. For years, no draft
information was officially released at all beyond the first round.
Players usually found out they were drafted from scouts, who didn’t
always give them accurate information about which round they were
picked in.

Thankfully, the information age and baseball fans’
passion fans have changed all this. And not to toot our own horns, but
Baseball America has played a significant part. Founding editor Allan
Simpson made the draft an integral part of BA’s coverage from our
beginnings in 1981, and that has continued over the last 26 years.

Even
before Major League Baseball officially released it, BA ferreted out
the complete draft list and published it in an issue right after the
draft. On draft day, players, coaches, agents and parents would keep
our phones tied up around the clock, calling to find out where people
had been picked.

The Internet allowed us to speed this process
up, so in 1998, we offered to e-mail (or fax) the early rounds of the
draft to anyone who paid us five bucks. A few weeks later, MLB decided
to relax its longstanding policy and release the complete draft results
to the public’”albeit at the end of each day.

Decade Of Change

Less
than a decade later, the draft will be on television. In the interim,
the Web and the growth of MLB.com have exponentially increased the
interest in the draft.

With the development of MLB Radio within
its Website, MLB.com began carrying audio of the entire draft live. It
added video coverage in the last three years and even brought in
executive vice president Jimmie Lee Solomon to introduce first-rounders
last year, adding some ceremony to the proceedings that will serve as a
prelude to this year’s full-blown production. And even when ESPN is
done with the draft, MLB.com will continue to carry every pick live.

The
Web has also allowed Baseball America to bring readers more of our
draft coverage, in a more timely fashion and in greater volume than we
ever could in the old days. Our Draft Preview issue used to be the only
way for anyone to get comprehensive information about draft prospects,
and while there are other sources now, it’s still the best.

Where
our preview issue used to have regional lists and as many player
profiles as we could jam into our pages, we are now able to use our
pages to focus on the absolute best players in the draft class while
still bringing you even more regional information on the Web.

And
now you can use all that information to do your own mock draft, settle
in front of the television on draft day, and watch the whole event
unfold live. As we’ve long said at Baseball America, it’s about time.

You can contact Will Lingo by sending e-mail to willlingo@baseballamerica.com.

Draft | #2007

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