The MLB Draft starts on Monday, June 4th and unless you are a draft savant who stalks the Baseball America draft section, you probably had no idea the draft was this week. The NFL and NBA Drafts are held with such high regard and rightfully so, but I’ve always wondered why those drafts are pinnacles to the sports’ schedule every year and no one talks about the MLB Draft outside of the week it takes place. While I leaned on the mentioned NFL and NBA Drafts for ideas for how to improve the MLB Draft, there’s a clear reason for it, they work. While the MLB Draft will never touch the NFL Draft and even the NBA Draft in popularity, there is an absolute place for it on the sports calendar and below are some ideas on how to improve it.
1. A Draft Combine
The NFL Draft Combine isn’t exactly the flashiest thing in the world and yet it still gets eyes from fans and media members alike. The “Underwear Olympics” as some refer to them as is not actual 11 vs. 11 football, but rather individual drills related to a player’s position. While I realize there are over 1000 high school and college players that get drafted, even regional combines could catch a few more eyes and therefore get people interested in the players that will appear on their TV screens draft night and hopefully later in the Majors.
2. Having A Host City
The NFL has seemed to buy into this idea more and more with the draft not being held in one city and in the same place, but rather the draft goes to different host cities. The MLB Draft isn’t in the same galaxy as far as the popularity of the NFL Draft, and even the NBA Draft, but like the MLB All-Star Game format that bounces between cities, it could get some interest if the draft was held in a convention center or a place like Williamsport, Pennsylvania that has a very baseball centered atmosphere to it.
3. Having A Live Audience
When Rob Manfred comes to the podium to make the announcement on who was drafted he’s not met by boos like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and he’s also not met by cheers either, he’s greeted with near silence. There’s something to be said about the impact live audiences have on events like this and the entertainment and drama that they bring. Again, it’s more likely than not that the MLB Draft will not be very well attended in regard to larger MLB events, but any reaction at all is better than the few hand claps that are made when a pick is announced in Secaucus, New Jersey where the draft is currently held.
4. More Players Attending in Person
You can usually count on one hand, or briefly use your second hand, on how many draftees show up for the MLB Draft in person. It’s no secret to you or me or the players about to be drafted that they’d rather be surrounded by friends and family in the comfort of their own home than go to Studio 42 in New Jersey and be greeted with a bland reception. 22 players attended the NFL Draft in person this past year and it’s easy to see the appeal. Players tour New York City, sit in the green room and are surrounded by fellow future NFL standouts. Major League Baseball could take a page out of this book and appeal more to the prospects to come in person if there are more incentives to travel to the draft in person.