Coordination with NCAA, fewer MLB games during Draft under consideration
By Mark Newman
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Calling it "a very exciting time for our game," Commissioner Rob Manfred announced his first MLB Draft selections on Monday night inside Studio 42 at MLB Network and chose this 50th anniversary of the event to discuss his wishes to grow it even further.
Manfred said one step in growing the event is to talk to the NCAA about "more coordination of the calendars" with the College World Series, so that more college players could participate in a live event -- perhaps even with a shift to Omaha, a possibility he leaves open. He would like to see considerably more prospects in attendance at the live event and a reduction in the number of live Major League games played simultaneously.
"We have certain logistical limitations, the most important of which is that a lot of the college players are still playing," Manfred told reporters moments before announcing the top overall pick, the D-backs' selection of Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson. "It's difficult to have them here. This event, like every event, is about the players. This is a limitation.
"I've said this publicly. We're going to try to have some conversations with the NCAA about a little better coordination of some calendars in the hope that we can make the event even better going forward."
When asked specifically about the possibility of moving the MLB Draft to Omaha, site of the College World Series, Manfred said, "I don't want to pre-judge the conversations with the NCAA, but as far as we're concerned, we are open to have conversations that will make the event better both for the NCAA and us.
"I don't think you're talking about huge shifts of the calendar. Obviously we have needs in terms of getting players signed and getting them out there playing, and obviously the College World Series is a very, very important event. But I think with some minor adjustments, we might be able to make a calendar that would be better for both of us."
In attendance for the first night of selections were four high school players expected to be drafted in one of the first two rounds; shortstop Brendan Rodgers of Lake Mary, Fla. (selected third overall by the Rockies), right-hander Mike Nikorak of Stroudsburg, Pa. (27th to the Rockies), right-hander Ashe Russell of Indianapolis Cathedral (21st to the Royals) and outfielder Garrett Whitley of Niskayuna, N.Y. (13th to the Rays). Manfred met with them during a luncheon earlier in the day.
When asked if he would like to have all teams off on the night of the Draft's first round, Manfred said: "We watch our schedule very carefully. We would love the focus within the realistic parameters to be on the Draft. So that's something I think is aspirational: as few games as possible."
Manfred said he enjoyed getting to chat with club reps on the floor before announcing his picks. "There are some great names in the room," he said. "I think it's wonderful that we'll have probably four young men in the room who will be drafted today, and this is an event that we are going to continue to grow in the coming years."
Any advice from his predecessor on how to read the picks?
"I haven't spoken with Commissioner [Emeritus Bud] Selig about the Draft," Manfred said with a laugh. "I was going to call him on the way out here and then I got tied up. I didn't get any advice. I think I can get through it.
"I'm going to try to play this one by ear, play it pretty straight, announce the names, try to get the cities and the names right and move on."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.