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Shatel: The MLB draft coming to Omaha is a 'win-win-win,' but there may be one curveball
COMMENTARY

Shatel: The MLB draft coming to Omaha is a 'win-win-win,' but there may be one curveball

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Think fast, baseball fans.

1. Who was the first pick in the 2019 major league draft?

2. Where was the 2019 draft held?

3. How many rounds are in the MLB draft?

4. Who was the first pick in the first MLB draft, and what year was it? (Hint: former Dodger, former Cub)

5. Finally, when will the draft be held in three years?

Answers: 1. Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman (Baltimore); 2. The MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey; 3. 40; 4. Rick Monday, 1965; 5. That’s a great question.

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Before we get to the curveball that Major League Baseball might throw Omaha, let’s talk about the slow pitch down the middle.

MLB is bringing its draft to Omaha next year. It will take place June 10 through 12 and lead into the College World Series, which begins June 13.

It’s a no-brainer. This will be the best thing to happen to the baseball draft. It will make the CWS better. It’s another big event for Omaha. That’s a win-win-win.

Let’s face it, the baseball draft is the invisible event. It’s some time in May, but it could be June. It takes place in the MLB Network studios. For all we know, it could be in Harold Reynolds’ dressing room.

Well, we’re about to give the MLB draft a serious makeover. Would you like to see our résumé?

Omaha took the NCAA’s backstop baseball tournament and turned it into a major TV event that now lasts almost two weeks.

We took the U.S. Olympic Committee’s quadrennial pool party and made it a citywide, corporate money-making festival.

We turned Creighton basketball games into something that got the attention of the Big East. NCAA basketball and volleyball love us. So does the USGA.

We can do wonders with a beer tap.

Vanderbilt CWS

Vanderbilt hoists the trophy after winning the College World Series over Michigan.

A sports draft is another challenge. For one thing, there’s no action, unless it’s the young millionaires walking across the stage to hug their new commissioner. Or the loud, screaming fans dressed in jerseys in the audience.

But the booming cottage industry known as fantasy sports created a nation of general managers and personnel minds who lock into the draft.

The NFL and NBA drafts have turned into TV shows. And the NFL draft is now something that cities bid on, like the Super Bowl. An estimated 600,000 attended the NFL draft in Nashville this year.

We can put baseball’s draft on this track, right?

“Yes,” said Martie Cordaro, president of the Omaha Storm Chasers. “It will look different. You don’t have the same impact as the NFL or NBA, where players join the team as rookies. You see a player get drafted in baseball and it might take him five years to make it to the big leagues.”

But the Holland Center, which holds 2,000 people, will be packed. Fans will wear their team’s jersey and cheer — or jeer — as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announces the selections.

If you bring it, they will come, Rob. The fans will most definitely come. From around the country, for a bucket-list doubleheader: the CWS and the draft.

Now they might actually see some players in the flesh. Some of the top picks should be in Omaha preparing for the CWS. They can walk down the street to get drafted, then the world can see them on the field playing for a national title two days later.

Let’s see the NFL and NBA do that.

“It makes a lot of sense,” Creighton coach Ed Servais said. “A lot of the better players will be in Omaha for the Series and it comes at a better time, so it’s not interfering with the games.

“I’d like to see more attention given to the draft and I’m looking forward to seeing what the city can do to generate that enthusiasm.”

Servais had a great idea: bring back former major league stars to announce the picks.

This move is so perfect it will be hard to mess up.

But here comes that potential curveball.

Last month, several media outlets, including Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, reported that MLB was considering a proposal that would reorganize minor league baseball and the draft.

One of the proposals: move the draft from June to August.

Why?

According to SI, the entire proposal was about reducing costs for the major league clubs. That included cutting up to 42 minor league teams.

If the draft moved to August, the draft would go from 40 rounds to 20 rounds. And the contracts of the draftees wouldn’t begin until the following spring.

This would put a serious crimp in the Omaha baseball draft idea.

This wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Why move the draft to Omaha if it’s not tied to the CWS? It could still work in August, but there’s no CWS in August. Unless moving the draft to August means the NCAA pushes back the season into the summer.

Right now, the situation is fluid. The idea to contract lower-level minor league teams has been met with a furious opposition, including politicians who are jumping on the bandwagon.

As for the draft, it’s coming to Omaha in June. What about the future? Maybe this marriage of the draft and Omaha/CWS means the idea to move the draft to August will get scrapped.

Our stage is set, Mr. Commissioner. We’ll do you right. This is no time to get fancy. Just throw one down the middle.


Photos: MLB No. 1 overall draft picks since 2000

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Related to this story

Spring training has just begun, but folks around Major League Baseball have been throwing heat at Rob Manfred, baseball’s commissioner. The anger at the commissioner goes all the way to the Omaha Storm Chasers office at Werner Park. That’s because Manfred’s vision to remake the game might have a major impact on minor league ball and perhaps even the Omaha market.

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