Selig: Draft has come a long way
Commissioner said event shows increasing popularity of game
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Commissioner Bud Selig spent the first part of the day Thursday researching the history of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, dating back to its inception in 1965.
Then he wrote a little history of his own with these words:
"With the first selection of the first round, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays select David Price, a left-hander from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. The Kansas City Royals have the next pick."
It marked the first time that a Major League Commissioner announced team-by-team selections on an actual stage in front of a live crowd and mass viewing audience. Selig presided over a giant step forward in stature at Disney's Wide World of Sports, as the First-Year Player Draft was not only broadcast live on MLB.com but also for the first time on ESPN2 for the first round.
"I'm delighted," Selig said immediately after announcing the Yankees' pick to complete the first round. "I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. I had read about all the players and was curious who was going to take whom, and I have to say that I really enjoyed calling out the names. These are the stars of the future. Everybody's career gets launched on a day like this."
The event had always been held behind closed doors in the past, and in recent years, it has become intensely popular to follow on MLB.com. This time it entered a new era with the addition of a live ESPN2 broadcast, which is what Selig announced. It was so familiar to the role typically played by commissioners of other professional sports leagues, but it was definitely a new look for baseball.
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
"What it does, it proves how popular the game has become," Selig said. "The fact that we're on TV now and it's MLB.com's biggest day of the year for traffic, it is just a dramatic increase in excitement. ... I thought today was a remarkably good day.
"I took a book along today and was researching back to '65. I realize what a fun day this is. I can't tell you how nice this was. You look at this Draft today, the coverage today, and it's really remarkable. When I first got involved in 1970 to now, it's come a long way."
When asked if the Draft is on television to stay, he gave a resounding "yes."
"Every year this will be on TV now," Selig said. "This will get bigger and bigger."
The inaugural public Draft event was held at The Milk House, an actual field house at Disney World next to the ballfields -- given its name because it is sponsored by the milk industry. On each side of the stage and floor, on the second level, there are ballpark-like box seats that in the first round were filled with fans to add flavor and occasional cheers to the event. Could this move to a larger venue?
"Could be," Selig said. But he quickly added: "This is fine."
Selig had opened the event by telling fans that players like the Yankees' Derek Jeter and the Cardinals' Albert Pujols "took their first steps by being drafted," and adding the names of the Phillies' Chase Utley and the Brewers' Prince Fielder as examples of today's young marquee talent.
"It's a great day for us," Selig said.
The first Draft in 1965 was conducted at the old Commodore Hotel, now the Grand Hyatt, in New York. It was for club members only in the same room. Eventually, it became a conference call, and remained that way for most of its existence. For the 2007 version of this two-day event, tables were set up for all 30 clubs, with renowned baseball personalities occupying many of the seats.
"No question, that was a big part of it," Selig said.
Then the Commissioner rushed off toward the airport, and Jimmie Lee Solomon took over the duty of announcing the picks in the subsequent Compensation Round. Another first was in the books for the sitting Commissioner.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.