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 publicï¿½albeit 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 email@example.com.