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MLB To Move 2020 Draft To Omaha

The draft is moving to Omaha in 2020, according to reports confirmed by Baseball America late Monday night. The event will be held during the week leading up to the College World Series, which begins June 13.

MLB has long wanted to move the draft to Omaha in an attempt to make it a bigger event and make it easier for college players to attend, but had previously been unable to come to an agreement with the NCAA. The NCAA, meanwhile, was hesitant to let the draft in any way encroach on the spotlight of college baseball’s showcase event.

But in recent years the two sides have found more common ground. Commissioner Rob Manfred opened dialogue with college coaches directly, listening to some of their concerns, including how disruptive the draft can be when it is held during the NCAA Tournament. MLB also staged a game in TD Ameritrade Park, home of the CWS, last year between the Royals and Tigers on the eve of the tournament. MLB also last year created the MLB4 Tournament on college baseball’s Opening Weekend hosted at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the spring training home of the D-backs and Rockies, and televised part of the event on MLB Network.

All of that has helped the two sides come together, which has now resulted in the long-held dream of an Omaha based draft.

The draft’s timing has been a point of contention in recent seasons. The draft has often overlapped with the NCAA Tournament – in 1998 Pat Burrell was picked first overall while he was waiting on deck to hit for Miami in the CWS – but as both events have gained a bigger stage, the overlap has become more of a concern. In 2015, Dansby Swanson was selected first overall by the D-backs just moments after he helped Vanderbilt win a super regional at Illinois and advance to the CWS. Last year, Chase Strumpf homered for UCLA in a regional final moments after the Cubs picked him in the second round.

The overlap benefitted no one and put extra stress on players at what is meant to be a joyous time. By moving the draft to the week of the CWS, that will no longer happen.

Removing that conflict is the best and most important part of the plan to move the draft, but it also may help MLB give the draft a bigger stage, something it hasn’t always wanted to do. It also, in theory, will make it easier for college players to attend the draft. Eight Day 1 picks last year were in the CWS field - though four were selected in the final five picks of the night. But beyond the players whose teams advance to Omaha, it remains to be seen how many will attend. MLB typically only has about half a dozen players at the draft, in part because some advisers believe attending the draft limits a player's leverage in negotiations, as it is seen to be an intent to sign. The NFL and NBA, which typically have dozens of picks in attendance at their drafts, do not deal with a similar issue because players must declare for the draft, thus eliminating any remaining college eligibility.

In the draft’s early days, it was held far from the public view. MLB even hid what round in which players were selected in an effort to keep college recruiters from finding new players and agents from increasing bonus demands. That began to change in the late 1990s, in part as a result of BA’s detailed reporting of how the draft played out.

It still wasn’t until 2002 that the draft was broadcast on radio and it wasn’t televised until 2007. That year ESPN hosted it at their campus in Orlando, before the draft in 2009 moved to MLB Network Studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Now the draft will go on the road again, this time to Omaha, down the road from TD Ameritrade Park. How much of a spectacle MLB is able to make it remains to be seen, but it is going to try to put on a show.

Acker, Dane Oklahoma (Brian Westerholt)

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