Fourteen years ago, when I was but a wee teenager, I was invited to attend an Orlando Magic NBA draft party. The Magic had won their second straight NBA draft lottery and, after drafting Shaquille O’Neal the previous year, were eager to add another piece to their young promising team. That evening the Orlando Arena (or the O-Rena as it was called) was chock full of Magic fans deliberating who should be the first pick: Michigan’s Chris Webber, Memphis State’s Anfernee Hardaway, or perhaps UNLV’s Isaiah (J.R.) Rider. I remember a few fans even wanting Shawn Bradley to play alongside Shaq.
As we waited in joyful anticipation for the big moment we played Magic-sponsored games, bought souvenirs, and felt the camaraderie of being amongst the Magic fan family. Then when Magic selected Webber, the overwhelming crowd favorite, our collective fanhood cheered like we never had before. Shaq and Chris Webber – a dream team. The cornerstones of a dynasty. And when the Magic eventually went against popular consensus and traded the draft rights to Webber for the draft rights to Penny Hardaway and several additional picks, I booed loudly, hoping Magic personnel could hear my disappointment. Despite the not-so-happy ending, that night I became addicted to the NBA draft. I have watched every year since.
Fourteen years later, Major League Baseball is finally entering the world of televised drafts. On June 7th, according to an MLB press release, the 42nd Major League Baseball Draft will be televised on ESPN 2. Finally, I can watch the Mets and the local Tampa Bay Devil Rays select their all-stars of the future. The future Shaquille O’Neals and Chris Webbers of Major League Baseball. And with the Devil Rays holding the first overall pick, there is even more reason to be excited, right? Perhaps another draft party to attend?
Not quite. As usual, the powers in charge of Major League Baseball have found a way to “foul” up a good thing. Instead of starting the draft in prime time, when a majority of fans could watch and perhaps even attend their own local draft parties, the first round of the baseball draft will start at 2PM Eastern time. Otherwise known as “the middle of the work day”. Smart, Major League Baseball. Very smart. Although what else should be expected from the same organization that brought fans All-Star game ties, World Series cancellations, the DH, and overpriced hot dogs?