Stephen Strasburg has authored one of the most captivating college seasons in recent memory, and that is why he enters the 2009 First-Year Player Draft as its biggest and brightest star, expected to be selected first overall by the Nationals on Tuesday.
But like a Strasburg 103-mph fastball, his selection will whiz past quickly and hundreds of selections will follow, once again showing that the Draft is about the newest galaxy of stars, not just one brilliant point of light.
Sure, it's Darryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Pat Burrell, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer, Justin Upton and Tim Beckham in being selected No. 1 overall with the sky as their limit. And that's the kind of class Strasburg, the right-hander out of San Diego State, would join if indeed he goes with the top pick.
But one pick does not the Draft make, as history has told us time and time again.
It's also Cal Ripken Jr. waiting until 47 players were picked before him, and an eighth round in 2000 that brought future 22-game-winners Dontrelle Willis (223rd overall) and Brandon Webb (249th). It's Ryne Sandberg waiting until the 20th round (511th overall), Don Mattingly until the 19th (493rd overall) and Mike Piazza until the 62nd (1,390th overall).
It's the dreams come true for young players and their families and former coaches who put in the countless hours of hard work to land a professional baseball career. It's the payoffs and the busts for clubs that scouted prospects exhaustively. It's the time-honored process of building Major League Baseball organizations that began in 1965, and now the official countdown is under way for the June 9-11 Draft that will be bigger and better than ever.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft. MLB Network will broadcast the first round beginning at 6 p.m. ET June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com. Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with the fourth through 30th rounds, via conference call from MLB Headquarters in New York, at noon on Wednesday, June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on Thursday, June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.
"As the Draft has gained more prominence in recent years, fans have embraced it with great enthusiasm," Commissioner Bud Selig said, announcing the expansion of this event and the unprecedented move to prime time for the first round. "With the continued support of MLB.com and now the advent of the MLB Network, we are enthusiastic about the possibilities to continue to grow this event."
The Draft is historically a happening at MLB.com, the main way people in communities everywhere watch with pride to find out if their own phenoms -- the guys they have watched and supported in youth leagues for years -- will become pros. It is how players and their families annually find out if those dreams have come true.
With reporting of every kind leading up to the first pick, MLB.com will be there for those fans every step of the way with its trademark live pick-by-pick stream, live audio of every selection, on-site and up-to-the-minute reporting and expert commentary along with two exclusive tools: Draft Caster, a live interactive media experience for fans to follow every pick, and Draft Tracker, a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player featuring statistics, scouting reports and video highlights.
Comprehensive video coverage includes live look-ins to various club "war rooms," interviews with Hall of Famers and club personalities, enhanced video scouting reports on 100 top Draft-eligible players and scouting video on more than 700 players. Afterward, on-demand club video wrapups will be available as well.
New for this year, MLB.com has launched the first online "social community" integration of the Draft by integrating Twitter into the Draft Caster and Draft Tracker. With it, fans will be able to interact directly with draft-eligible players and MLB.com draft experts, among others. MLB.com has created a Twitter account devoted to the Draft, where you can stay updated on every piece of info as it becomes available (@MLBDraft).
And, of course, with dedicated club-by-club reporting providing behind-the-scenes information, more than 150 archived stories setting up the event, and a robust Draft history section that includes full Draft listings dating back to 1965, there is plenty to read before, during and after the picks are flying.
The first name will be called by Selig, and unless signability is an issue, Washington (nee Montreal) will use its first No. 1 overall selection in franchise history to select Strasburg.
The right-hander has a fastball that tops out at 103 mph and a severely sharp breaking ball that makes it even scarier. He was in the headlines this spring for throwing a no-hitter in his final home start for Tony Gwynn's San Diego State club, making a strong finish to a season that follows up his U.S. Olympic performance last August.
When Selig reveals the identity of the Nationals' No. 1 overall pick, he will be standing at a podium in a room named in honor of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. Studio 42 measures 9,600 square feet and was designed as a replica baseball field, to be used as an on-air demonstration center by MLB Network's on-air talent. It features a half-scale infield made of field turf and a pitcher's mound 30 feet from home plate that can be moved back for more realistic demonstrations.
"When we started plotting out our programming schedule, the First-Year Player Draft was definitely one of the dates we circled on the baseball calendar," said Tony Petitti, president and chief executive officer of MLB Network. "We're looking forward to Studio 42 being the backdrop for the beginning of many promising baseball careers."
Among the members of MLB Network's broadcast team slated for the historic event is in-studio host Greg Amsinger, who will be joined by analysts Harold Reynolds and Jim Callis, along with Marcos and Mayo.
Reynolds retired from Major League Baseball after a 12-year playing career that garnered him two All-Star nods and three Gold Gloves. Since then he has gone on to an equally celebrated broadcasting career and is one of the main faces of the Network's on-air team.
Callis is the Executive Editor of Baseball America, long considered one of the best sources for information on top amateur and Minor League players.
Marcos and the Major League Scouting Bureau, the official scouting organization for MLB, provide detailed reports on amateur and professional players, which are not only available to all 30 clubs but also provide the information in MLB.com's exclusive Draft Tracker.
Mayo, a senior reporter for MLB.com, is one of the nation's top experts on the Draft and is the head and heart behind the pre-Draft and Draft coverage for the Web site. He will be serving as sideline reporter for the first-round action on the Network before sliding into the key analyst seat when the coverage moves over to MLB.com/Live for the remainder of the Draft. Mayo's MLBlog also will be a source of Draft info leading up to the event.
Over the past few years, Major League Baseball has been transitioning the Draft from an industry-only closed-door conference call out of its New York headquarters to more of a multimedia event along the lines of the NFL and NBA drafts, and the media marriage of the Draft and MLB Network coverage kicks that transition into high gear.