Decade of Draft: Event continues to evolve, grow

Decade of Draft: Event continues to evolve, grow

Decade of Draft: Event continues to evolve, grow
On June 5, 2001, Major League Baseball senior director of baseball operations Roy Krasik sat in a room at the MLB headquarters in New York with representatives from all 30 clubs on a conference call. He had the operator conference in another line, this one so that listeners of a brand-new MLB.com website also could hear the news as he proceeded to announce the No. 1 overall selection:

"With the first selection of the 2001 Draft, the Minnesota Twins select catcher Joe Mauer from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minnesota."

As MLB.com launches its 2011 First-Year Player Draft coverage to count down the days until the big June 6-8 event, it is clear 10 years later that (a) the Twins made an astute pick and (b) you've got it made now. If you didn't know it back then, you can see plainly now that a revolution was about to begin -- combining baseball, community and technology in a way that would transform a conference-call process to a live and interactive multimedia spectacle.

"It's hard to believe that it has already been 10 years since my Draft day," said Mauer. "It's amazing how far the Draft has come since that day. Now it is a major event for baseball. It's such an exciting time for amateur players and so many people around baseball. It's a day I will never forget."

And the three days of the 2011 Draft are sure to never be forgotten by the approximately 1,500 draftees and their family and friends. Not to mention the fans, who will sink their teeth into MLB.com staples such as Draft Reports to see the same kind of scouting data clubs get; a DraftTracker to see where likely high picks such as Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Danny Hultzen and Bubba Starling wind up; and a DraftCaster to stream the live event on one slightly mesmerizing page that incorporates video (not 2001 audio), the pick-by-pick and a Twitter feed from you and the experts.

In 2011, the Draft itself is a happening, and almost all fans have some kind of connection, from the local community interest in a friend or family member's prospects to the hope that your team's fourth-round pitcher one day will be the answer in the starting rotation. You will see it live for the third straight year on MLB Network, televised from Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J. Commissioner Bud Selig will announce the first-round picks for the fifth consecutive year, as he began doing when the Draft became a live event in 2007 at the Milk House at Disney World.

Draft Central

"The growth of amateur baseball and the interest level of the Draft have certainly grown in prominence over the last 10 years," says Krasik, who has conducted the event since taking over following the retirement of executive vice president of baseball operations Bill Murray in 2000. "The ability for fans and players alike to follow Draft coverage on MLB.com and MLB Network has certainly given them more opportunity to be knowledgeable about players who have been eligible for selection.

"This is the moment in the lives of players when they get an opportunity to become a professional baseball player, and at the same time to let our Major League and Minor League fans witness the next generation of emerging stars in our game. We're excited about the 2011 Draft and the culmination of so much hard work by our clubs and, of course, the players who are about to be selected."

When Mauer was selected at the start of the 2001 Draft, visitors to MLB.com could click an audio link and hear the selections. That had been the case the previous year as well on a precursor MLB site, but 2001 was the first coverage for MLB.com after owners unanimously approved the formation of MLB Advanced Media.

"It was very difficult for even Draft-eligible players to be able to find out they were selected, and for all of our baseball fans to have an opportunity to know who was selected," Krasik said. "MLB.com and MLB Network allowed our fans to find those players and learn about them."

As a large editorial force was built, heavy attention was devoted to this important annual talent-feeder event, which selects more athletes than any other North American pro sport. What followed was a non-stop expansion of the live selection process as well as the coverage before, during and after the event ... and the escalation of fan inclusion. The First-Year Player Draft quickly became an annual No. 1 traffic day on the site, and the growth continues.

From here until the Draft itself, you won't be able to miss the coverage on MLB.com. Now is also a good time to make sure you are frequenting Draft Central, following @MLBDraft on Twitter and including Jonathan Mayo's MLBlog on your blogroll. You also will want to get in the habit of using the #mlbdraft hashtag, as your tweets will become part of the overall volume of commentary about this year's event.

Like each of the previous two years, the 2011 Draft will span three days. Day 1 of the Draft will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com, starting with a preview show at 6 p.m. ET on June 6. The broadcast will provide live pick-by-pick coverage during the first round and the first compensation round. The Draft will resume at noon ET on both Tuesday, June 7, and Wednesday, June 8, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York.

Continuing coverage at the start of Day 2, MLB.com will deliver exclusive live programming of the Draft's final two days, including a live pick-by-pick stream, Draft and scouting expert commentary and DraftCaster.

The selection order is determined by the reverse order of the standings at the close of the previous championship season. Compensation picks have been assigned to clubs whose Type A or Type B free agents signed with other clubs and/or to clubs that did not sign a player who was chosen in the first three rounds of the 2010 Draft.

The Pirates have the first overall selection, the third time in club history they have the top choice -- and first since 2002. The Rays have the most first-round selections with three (24th, 31st and 32nd overall) and they also have 10 of the first 60 picks. The D-backs (third and seventh), Nationals (sixth and 23rd), Padres (10th and 25th), Brewers (12th and 15th) and Red Sox (19th and 26th) also hold multiple first-round choices.

Last year's first-round choices included the Nats' top overall selection, Bryce Harper, who batted .343 with a home run and seven RBIs in nine Arizona Fall League contests in 2010, and White Sox left-handed reliever Chris Sale, the 13th overall pick, who became the first player from the 2010 Draft class to reach the Majors with his debut on Aug. 6, 2010.

The Draft will have 50 rounds and will conclude after all 30 teams have passed on a selection or after the final selection of the 50th round, whichever comes first.

Once again, each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented at the Draft by one of its former players and/or a member of its front office. Last year's representatives included Hall of Famers Tommy Lasorda and Frank Robinson, as well as 2011 Hall of Fame Inductee Roberto Alomar. Club representatives who will attend the 2011 Draft will be announced in the weeks ahead.

"It's a wonderful moment to bring together generations of former players who made our game what it is today, with the names of the next generation of players who will be selected," Krasik said.

"From one generation to another, there's such a wonderful historical significance of our game and each year it melds right into the next. It's almost like passing the baton over to the next generation of players. We never forget about the players we enjoyed watching over the years and we look forward to the ones who will be selected in this year's Draft."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.