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Selig enjoying Draft's growth into an event

Selig enjoying Draft's growth into an event

Selig enjoying Draft's growth into an event
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- On a memorable Monday when Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft took another step forward as a live prime-time event, Commissioner Bud Selig was hugged twice at the podium by top overall selection Carlos Correa of Puerto Rico; saw his first back flip by a Draft pick; and even had an active All-Star deliver one of the first-round picks.

"This is nice," Selig said during his State of the Draft with reporters backstage amidst the late first-round picks at Studio 42. "When you think how this has evolved, we've come a long way in a very short period of time. I'm enjoying tonight as you can probably already tell."

Before it became a live television event in 2007, the Draft started online -- and MLB.com continues to be a one-stop shop for fans everywhere to get the latest news and updates about top prospects' latest comings and goings.

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2012 Draft Central

It was the night when the past, present and future truly converged all in one place. In addition to the now-traditional array of former players and executives serving as club representatives at the 30 club tables, there was the unprecedented presence of an active marquee Major Leaguer at a live Draft. Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who, along with 8-year-old son "Little C," became the first person other than Selig to read a first-round pick since 2007, taking the podium to announce the Yankees' first-rounder, right-hander Ty Hensley.

Filling a noted void of past Drafts, five prospects attended, and each was selected in the first round and given hats and jerseys. Correa was chosen first overall by the Astros, left-hander Andrew Heaney ninth by the Marlins, shortstop Gavin Cecchini 12th by the Mets, the back-flipping outfielder Courtney Hawkins 13th by the White Sox and catcher Clint Coulter 27th by the Brewers.

"Their excitement was just terrific -- all of these kids," Selig said. "By the time I got to them and they came over, boy, I could still hear their hearts pumping, I'll tell you that. They were nervous. It's great. The kids I met today are really great young men and I'm glad they came. That adds a dimension."

While five players was significant, Selig made it clear that he would prefer a crowd of them.

"I hope we can work on that," he said. "The more people we can have here, the better I like it. Five is a good start, but we need to do better than that."

Rounds 2-40 will also be streamed live on MLB.com on Tuesday and Wednesday. MLB.com's coverage, sponsored by CenturyLink, will include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

In the first round, there were 17 high school players chosen, including 12 position players. Four of the top overall picks were position players. This event had a different feel, but the same rising popularity. It continues to be one of the biggest days of the calendar year in baseball in terms of multimedia visibility and demand by fans -- a far cry from those days when it was a quiet conference call.

"Back then, people were so concerned about agents and players and all that, and we had announced nothing, which is not good at all," Selig said. "This is good. This will get bigger and bigger and better and better."

Said MLB Network studio analyst Harold Reynolds, who personally recruited prospective Draft picks to join in the Studio 42 party: "This was a cool, cool event. I hope more kids will learn to come and do their flip when they see their name is picked."

The Draft process was revamped as a result of MLB's Basic Agreement with the Players Association before this season. The Commissioner instituted a system wanting the best talent to go first and wanted the Draft to not be about signability, so he was asked whether there was any concern about the slide of projected top overall pick Mark Appel of Stanford to No. 8, amid speculation that signability was an issue.

"Well, let's see how it all plays out first," Selig said. "It's obviously very premature to draw a conclusion. The only thing I would say, that I've told the clubs over and over for years, when the Draft was instituted in 1965, it was meant to equalize things -- level the playing field. It did for a long time, and then we began to have some things to indicate it wasn't. I'm happy for this. It makes it more exciting. Mark Appel gets passed, but winds up going to the Pittsburgh Pirates, which I think is great.

"Let's see how it works out. I am very optimistic that this will work out well, I think these were changes clearly helping the game."

One of the more lighthearted moments occurred after Selig read the name of Hawkins as the White Sox first-round selection. On the studio floor, Reynolds and the crew were talking about Hawkins' penchant for Ozzie Smith-like back flips, and Network reporter Sam Ryan asked Hawkins if he could do one right there on the spot.

No problem. Hawkins nailed the landing. First Draft back flip ever, right in front of Ivan Rodriguez, Tony Oliva, Fergie Jenkins and all those legends. Never mind that White Sox general manager Kenny Williams subsequently gave his new prospect a gentle nudge to retire the back flip, or that Hawkins agreed. It was etched in Draft history.

"I hadn't seen one before," Selig said. "It only goes to prove that if you live long enough you'll see everything. The kids that are here are very nice."

Selig said he was heartened by the impact that Correa's No. 1 selection likely would have back in Puerto Rico. The shortstop comes from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, which MLB developed to generate a talent pipeline in the homeland of the late Roberto Clemente.

"It's everything we're trying to accomplish in a lot of ways, so I'm very pleased. Very pleased," Selig said. "It can't help but help. And to be the first player picked by the way is great. Everything in life runs in cycles. I think this is a hopeful sign for the future."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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