Draft contingent rings NASDAQ opening bell
Lasorda, Robinson joined by Solomon, Mets rookie Davis
NEW YORK -- Ike Davis' father Ron was in Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers bullpen briefly during the 1987 season, and for a while Ike thought he might be pitching for that club as well.
"We met before -- you worked me out one day," Ike reminded Lasorda on Monday morning at the NASDAQ MarketSite in bustling Times Square, where they rang the opening bell along with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon.
The clock is ticking for the 7 p.m. ET start of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft tonight, and Davis stood there for this unique preliminary event as living proof of how suddenly things can happen for an aspiring ballplayer.
In 2008, the Dodgers used their first-round pick, 15th overall, on local high school pitcher Ethan Martin. Three picks later, the Mets nabbed Davis, Arizona State's All-America first baseman and pitcher, developing him up as a position player and then calling him up swiftly this season for what has been an impact rookie year so far.
"I was watching the TV at a house along with my college roommates. We were about to start an NCAA super regional, and we were all there watching together," Davis recalled. "My name got called and it was a surprise, because no one had called me to tell me the Mets might take me. They announced Ike Davis was drafted. It's kind of a crapshoot. A lot of teams tell you they like you, they say they will draft you, and they don't.
"It was nice because you follow your dreams and you never know what might happen. The Draft is a great day. You have to go into it with a grain of salt, because everyone wants to be drafted in the first round. It's not always going to happen. And it doesn't mean you're not going to make it into the big leagues."
This day will end with the selection of 50 more players who harbor the same hopes Davis had then. Bryce Harper, the 17-year-old catcher/outfielder phenom from College of Southern Nevada, is widely expected to be chosen first overall by the Nationals. In the morning, it was all about anticipation, uncertainty -- and, this time, some Big Apple flair.
"It's getting huge," Davis said. "In high school, it was nothing like this. There was a line for your name on the MLB.com [DraftTracker] page and they would post it. That's how you found out. That was really the only thing about it. They started putting some video clips in when I was in high school. It's gotten so much bigger, as you see right there.
"It's harder for baseball fans to know -- it's not like the NFL or the NBA, where they have watched those draft picks while they were in college. It's a little harder because there are so many high school kids and they aren't on TV or the big stage in college.
"With it turned into such a showcase event now on MLB Network and MLB.com, it definitely gives the fans a little more insight into who they are drafting, who they may see in the future coming up and helping us win some games. You get a little extra incentive to get out and check out these Minor League games."
"It was great, very great," Lasorda said amid photographers after the event. "I can remember when we were preparing ourselves with the Dodgers. Al Campanis and everyone, we had cards we would look at. Now here we are and we've got all this technology, we've got this kickoff event. Everything is bigger now. This Draft is big and it's getting bigger."
Hence the NASDAQ event in Times Square. It's the Big Apple. It's the Big Draft.
Lasorda was actually making his third NASDAQ bell-ringing appearance. His most recent one had been on behalf of the Ellis Island-Statue of Liberty Foundation. He is an old hand at working Drafts for the Dodgers, and this marks the fourth consecutive year that he has been part of the recent tradition of legends and familiar club reps who sit at the 30 individual club tables on the floor of the main Draft room and man the phone to the war room.
In addition to Hall of Famers Lasorda (LAD), Robinson (MLB), Jim Rice (BOS) and Billy Williams (CHI), other former All-Stars scheduled to attend include Roberto Alomar (TOR), Jeff Bagwell (HOU), Dante Bichette (COL), Al Bumbry (BAL), John Candelaria (PIT), Shawon Dunston (SF), Travis Fryman (CLE), Ralph Garr (ATL), Luis Gonzalez (ARI), Tyler Green (PHI), Davey Johnson (WAS), Wally Joyner (LAA), Barry Larkin (CIN), Mark Loretta (SD), Jeff Russell (TEX), Gorman Thomas (MIL), Bob Watson (MLB) and Roy White (NYY).
Rocco Baldelli, who was the sixth overall selection in 2000, will represent the franchise that drafted him, the Rays, who also will have senior baseball advisor Don Zimmer in attendance. Mookie Wilson, a key contributor to the 1986 World Series Championship club managed by Johnson, will attend on behalf of the Mets. Jared Mitchell, who was the 23rd overall pick by the White Sox in the 2009 Draft following his career at Louisiana State, will represent his club as he recovers from ankle surgery. In addition to Johnson and Zimmer, former managers and general managers scheduled to attend include Pat Corrales (WAS), Roland Hemond (ARI), Joe McIlvaine (MIN), Jack McKeon (FLA) and Gene Michael (NYY). Many other executives, scouts and former Major League players also will be on hand.
When the rookie ballplayer from Arizona State was introduced as "the New York Mets' Ike Davis," it drew special attention. A potentially big year for the Mets is under way in arguably the most competitive division in baseball, the National League East. In 44 games, Davis is batting .261 with six homers and 18 RBIs.
The Draft will span three days. MLB Network and MLB.com will provide live pick-by-pick coverage during the first round as well as the first compensation round. The intervals between selections will last five minutes during the first round and one minute during the compensation round. The Draft will resume at noon ET on both Tuesday and Wednesday via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York.
Prior to the start on Monday, MLB Network will air a Draft preview show, also simulcast on MLB.com, with Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and MLB.com senior writer Jonathan Mayo and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis at 6 p.m. ET.
Continuing coverage at the start of day two, 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, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,500 players, supplemented by statistics, scouting reports and video highlights.
The selection order of the First-Year Player Draft is determined by the reverse order of finish 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 2009 Draft. The Angels have the most first round selections with three (18th, 29th and 30th overall) and possess five of the first 40 picks overall. The Astros (8th and 19th), the Rangers (15th and 22nd) and the Rays (17th and 31st) also hold multiple first round choices. 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.