SBJ/June 6-12, 2011/Media

MLB Network welcomes draft's uncertainty

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Commissioner Bud Selig spoke during last year’s MLB draft at MLB Network’s Studio 42.
With no bona fide standout candidate in this year’s MLB draft, which starts tonight, MLB Network executives think they have received an additional level of suspense to the event.

MLB Network is televising the draft for the third time from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., after an initial run on ESPN2. Unlike the past two MLB drafts, led by the Washington Nationals’ selections of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, respectively, there is no player already identified as the consensus top pick. The Pittsburgh Pirates hold the first selection in what is widely thought to be a historically deep talent pool this year, and as of last week were still evaluating several players.

The Tampa Bay Rays, in part because of substantial player losses through free agency last winter, also have amassed 10 of the top 60 picks in the draft.

“We’ve definitely picked up a layer of intrigue this year,” said John Entz, MLB Network senior vice president of production. “As a viewer, it’s pretty exciting to not know what’s going to happen right from the top. The draft is always full of last-minute changes, but since no one knows how this is even going to start, it unquestionably takes on more of a truly live feel.”

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Bryce Harper was picked No. 1 by the Nationals last year, to no one’s surprise.
While still not operating at the same stature and prominence as the NFL and NBA drafts, MLB’s draft continues to grow in importance as more teams commit greater resources to developing and retaining homegrown talent. As a result, MLB Network and sister entity MLB.com again have added programming elements in and around the draft.

MLB Network will have expanded access into about 23 team draft rooms this year, and perhaps a few more, up from 20 last year. A one-hour preview show will precede the live coverage, and the network last week ran several draft preview segments.

“We’re still learning, as before, there wasn’t really an established process on how you cover this event,” Entz said. “But we’ve figured out that it’s really a year-round effort to prepare and do it right.”

MLB.com will run its own preview video and simulcast MLB Network’s live coverage of the first and supplemental draft rounds today, and then continue with exclusive live coverage of the second and third days of the draft. The site is reviving its DraftCaster, an interactive online application that includes scouting reports, video highlights and other data for every draft-eligible player.

For the third consecutive year, the 30 MLB clubs will be represented tonight in Secaucus by a mix of former players, coaches and executives, including hall of famers Rod Carew, Roberto Alomar, Gaylord Perry and Jim Rice. A smaller group of those representatives; Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president of baseball operations; and MLB Network talent was scheduled to ring the opening bell this morning at the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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