Juxtapose that sparsely attended scene with what took place last June in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., as baseball televised its Draft for the first time. The show in The Milk House may have been four decades in the making, but it was certainly worth the wait. Now, with the annual Draft a month away, it's time to start looking to what baseball will do for an encore.
This year's Draft will take place June 5-6 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. And for the second consecutive year, fans will be allowed into the building free of charge to watch the proceedings.
The Milk House, which was named as a result of the National Dairy Association's sponsorship of the complex, is expected to be rocking when Commissioner Bud Selig steps to the podium and announces which player Tampa Bay will be taking with the top pick. Will the Rays be heading back to Vanderbilt for the second consecutive year and make a Commodore the top selection? There are many that believe Vandy third baseman Pedro Alvarez could go first, but Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow and San Diego southpaw Brian Matusz are also highly touted.
Whichever direction the Rays go, MLB.com will be there to bring it to you live, once again broadcasting every pick of the Draft. Coverage on the first day begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's national broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively on MLB.com with live analysis from the Milk House by MiLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo. Coverage will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Day 2 and continue through the 50th round, if necessary.
MLB.com's coverage will also feature two days of live multimedia coverage from Florida on BaseballChannel.TV.
Every selection of the Draft will be heard on MLB.com, from first to last. In addition, MLB.com's Live Draft Tracker will provide a searchable database of every draft-eligible player that will feature biographical data, statistics, scouting reports and, in some cases, scout video.
"We're very happy with the way the 2007 First-Year Player Draft went," MLB's senior director for baseball operations Roy Krasik said. "It seems that we were able to have draft eligible players attend and be there in person which really enhanced the stature of the Draft. We're attempting to increase the number of players, though slightly, who will be attending this year.
"We also expect more positive benefits from this year's Draft. We think the awareness of the Draft is out there now, people know it's being televised and where it's being held. I think, as a result, more people will be interested in attending."
One reason that more people may be interested in attending is that MLB is looking to make the experience more fan-based this year. Last season, several of the former players who were on hand to represent their former clubs took time to sign autographs for the fans. Krasik is hopeful of having a repeat performance this year.
"We just want to make the in-house experience more appealing to the fans," he said. "Based on discussions we've had, we are sure will have an enhanced experienced. We want to make it more attractive for fans on site so that they are enjoying every moment of the experience."
And if you can't wait until the Draft to get your fix, tune in to MLB.com's third annual exclusive Draft Preview show on June 2 at noon ET. The show will take a look at some of the Draft's biggest prospects and examine the most recent trends in the days leading up to the Draft.
While the Draft doesn't yet approach the NFL or NBA drafts in terms of spectacle, Krasik can't help but wonder if baseball isn't headed down the same path. Televising the Draft, inviting the fans in to watch and making it an interactive experience has certainly proven to be a great first step in that direction.
"This is the second year of televising the baseball Draft," Krasik said. "If you look to the second year of NBA or NFL draft, from an awareness standpoint, I think we're sort of in the same place they were in their second year [televising]. Who knows? There may come a point and time down the road that maybe we can aspire to what NBA and NFL have accomplished in their drafts. Maybe years from now we can look back and say this was our way to get our feet wet."
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less