Clubs deliver star power for Draft reps
Four Hall of Famers among those announcing top picks
Who needs prime-time ping pong balls to create Draft drama when you can instead feature a blockbuster lineup of Hall of Famers, All-Stars and other celebrities?
Maybe Major League Baseball lagged behind its NFL and NBA brethren for a while when it came to making a multi-media event of its own First-Year Player Draft, but it's been making up for that in the last two years and 2009 looks to be bigger and better than ever.
And MLB.com will be there for every minute of the event, offering live coverage and analysis of the entire Draft on June 9-11, on 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. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on June 9, noon on June 10 and 11:30 a.m. on June 11.
Since 2007, MLB has been transitioning the Draft from an industry-only, closed-door conference call out of its New York headquarters to a more media and fan-friendly event.
This year, with the January launch of the MLB Network to 50 million households, the event hits prime time for the first time with the cast to match, as the first round of the Draft is broadcast live at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 9, on the Network.
Four members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame lead the list of dozens of baseball luminaries who will be on hand representing the 30 teams as they call the names of the top high school and college stars taken in the first round of the Draft.
This addition of illustrious representation was added when the clubs gathered in public for the first time in 2007. All of the luminaries were selected for the connection they have to the team they represent, so as to celebrate the connection of the past to the present and, through the draft, to the future.
Hall of Fame members Al Kaline (Detroit), Billy Williams (Cubs), Bill Mazeroski (Pittsburgh) and Tommy Lasorda (Dodgers) lead the roster, with both Kaline and Williams returning in that capacity for the second year in a row.
Kaline, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980, is known as "Mr. Tiger" to decades worth of Tigers fans and deservedly so. Kaline is in his 56th year with the organization, currently serving as special assistant to the president of the team.
He enjoyed a remarkable 22-year career that included 3,007 hits, 399 homers, a lifetime .297 average, 15 All-Star selections and 10 Gold Gloves in the outfield.
In what is more and more of a rarity in this day and age, Kaline spent his entire playing career with Detroit, and went on to work for the club as a broadcaster and front office executive.
He is also one of the few players to have gone right from the amateur ranks to the big leagues, after signing at age 18 in 1953. He won his first batting title just two years later.
For Kaline, who will be joined at the Tigers' table by another Detroit legend and former teammate, Willie Horton, his experience in this capacity in 2008 is proof positive that the Draft can have an immediate impact on a club.
The player that the Tigers took in the first round of the 2008 draft, Arizona reliever Ryan Perry, is already a key cog in the Detroit bullpen this season with a 2.45 ERA as he is being groomed for the closer role.
"When you're sitting there and waiting your turn, hoping one of your top guys is still there for you, it's really exciting to watch and see who you're going to be able to get," said Kaline, whose Tigers have the ninth overall pick this year. "We were very happy that Perry was still available for us."
Kaline was especially inspired by knowing how many young men's dreams were going to be coming true during the three-day span of the 50-round Draft.
"This is such an exciting time," he said. "No matter whether you're No. 1 or taken in the 50th round, if you're drafted, you're one of the best players in the country."
Williams, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987, is a six-time All-Star who was NL Rookie of the Year in 1961 and went on to hit .290 in 18 seasons. He is now a senior advisor for the Cubs.
Mazeroski, who makes his first Draft appearance in this capacity, first signed with the Pirates in 1954 as a 17-year-old infielder and is regarded as one of the best defensive second basemen of his time. He earned NL All-Star honors 10 times and was a hero for the Pirates in the 1960 World Series when he became the first player to end the Series with a home run, beating the Yankees. He was inducted into the Hall in 2001.
Lasorda, whose name is virtually synonymous with his Dodgers, was voted into the Hall in 1997 by the Veterans Committee for his managerial career, 21 years of which were spent at the Dodgers' helm. Lasorda led the Dodgers to eight division titles and two World Series championships, and after his retirement he maintained those ties with the team as an executive and an ambassador and has been involved with the team for a period which has spanned seven decades.
Among the other notables slated to be on hand for the event are eight former first-round Draft picks, including two "1/1"s, first overall picks. Ben McDonald, representing the Baltimore Orioles, was taken with the first overall pick in 1989 out of Louisiana State, and Shawon Dunston, the top pick in 1982, is representing the San Francisco Giants.
Other first-round picks who will be on hand to represent big league teams (though not all necessarily with the teams who drafted them): Rico Brogna, 1988 (Arizona); Ellis Burks, 1983 (Cleveland); Craig Biggio, 1987 (Houston); Tino Martinez, 1988 (Yankees); Lee Mazzilli, 1973 (Yankees); and Jim Sundberg, 1973 (Texas).
Other names of note that will certainly resonate with baseball fans who watch the proceedings live from Studio 42: Two-time AL stolen base leader Tommy Harper with the Red Sox; former Reds slugger Eric Davis with Cincinnati; Rockies legend Eric Young Sr. with Colorado; former Manager "Trader" Jack McKeon for Florida; longtime ace closer John Franco with the Mets; beloved former manager and coach Don Zimmer for Tampa Bay; respected longtime baseball executive and scout Roland Hemond with Arizona.
Rounding out the list: Atlanta: Ralph Garr and Kevin Barry; Baltimore: Fred Uhlman Sr.; Boston: Chris Calciano; Chicago Cubs: Dani Holmes; Chicago White Sox: Ron Kittle and Moose Skowron; Cincinnati: Dick Williams; Cleveland: Jason Bere; Colorado: Mike Garlatti; Florida: Manny Colon; Houston: John Kosciak; Kansas City: Dennis Leonard and Art Stewart; Los Angeles Angels: Bill Stoneman; Los Angeles Dodgers: Brian Stephenson; Milwaukee: Jim Gantner and Mark Mueller; Minnesota: Joe McIlvaine and John Wilson; Oakland: Blue Moon Odom and Jason McDonald; Philadelphia: Dallas Green and Larry Shenk; Pittsburgh: Bill Virdon; San Diego: Woody Williams and Jimmy Jones; San Francisco: Tony Siegle; Seattle: Jay Buhner and Carmen Fusco; St. Louis: John Abbamondi and Joe Rigoli; Texas: Rusty Greer; Toronto: Pat Hentgen and Jay Stenhouse; Washington: Devon White and Pat Corrales; MLB: Bob Watson and Darryl Hamilton.
Baseball fans will be able to follow all of the proceedings for the first round on the MLB Network, which will air the first round live from Studio 42 at its Secaucus, N.J., complex.
Named in honor of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, the studio 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.
The broadcast will include interviews from many of the baseball celebrities on hand as well as in-depth analysis of the goings-on from its expert staff.
The up-to-the-minute coverage will not stop with the end of the first round, though. The rest of the evening's picks, through the supplemental third round, will be aired live on MLB.com.
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, scouting video.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.