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Baseball hopes TV draft will be a hit

Los Angeles Dodger Nomar Garciaparra gets a hit.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: The name David Price might not mean anything to most of you. He's a left-handed relief pitcher out of Vanderbilt University, and he was the number one pick in today's Major League Baseball draft.

That's ordinarily not that big a deal. It might still be years before Price makes it to the big leagues, if ever. But for the first time ever, the baseball draft's on television.

Diana Nyad's here to tell us more. Hi, Diana.

Diana Nyad: Kai, what's going on?

Ryssdal: No so much, except this baseball draft which is, as you're about to tell us, I guess, on television for the first time ever. Here's my question . . .

Nyad: OK.

Ryssdal: Why?

Nyad: Well, you know, it used to be that because they're college players, we don't know any of them. They're high school players, we don't know any of them. The draft just doesn't mean anything. They go into the minors, they wallow in the minors and so, you know . . .

Ryssdal: For years . . .

Nyad: Yeah, years. So, you know, we don't care about the draft. But now, it's been streaming on the Internet the last few years. The Internet's changed everything about sports and all of our lives. And so now, now we're following. . . If you're a big fan, you're a Cardinals fan, you're a Yankees fan, whatever — you're following, "Hey who's coming up? Who's gonna help us with that relief pitching this year?"

And so now, you know, there is a little more upfront interest. So you can see that guy, if he gets drafted today by the Cardinals . . . You know, it used to be that you weren't gonna see him until maybe 2012 if you were lucky. Now, all during the next couple of years, you can follow him when he gets into that Cardinals farm team and say, "You know I see, hey, he had three great games, I see the Cards are gonna bring him up." And you have a little more interest in it, you know?

Ryssdal: All right. So here we are on a Thursday afternoon. It's ESPN2, not too many people home watching TV. What does ESPN hope to get out of putting this draft on the air?

Nyad: Oh, I think it's just the first year. You know, as you say, Thursday afternoon, they don't expect great ratings. I mean, you could pick up all the sports pages today around the country, and you know, it's the first night of the NBA final, the French Open is heating up, the LPGA championship starts today, the Belmont is on Saturday . . . virtually nothing about the MLB draft. I mean, imagine if this was the day of the NFL draft. It would be . . . I don't care if it's the NBA final, it would be front-page, hardcore news. So it's barely mentioned. But, y'know, you gotta start somewhere. So this year's the first year, just a little, tiny buzz. And it'll grow — I bet you and I'll sit around 10 years from now and the MLB draft will be much bigger than it is today.

Ryssdal: Part of that will be because Major League Baseball is starting up its own network, right? I mean, this is going to be programming eventually that's gonna feed that network.

Nyad: It's actually a big deal. They just inked the deal, it's not actually gonna launch until January 1, 2009. So they're a little bit away from it. But MSNBC is the biggest cable launch so far — I think it was 28 million homes back some 10 years ago. Well, MLB already has, you know, gotten into 47 million homes by satellite and cable. They'll have another 15 million or so. So, you know, 55 million plus homes on their launch. They've done it right, unlike the NFL network, I must say — all kinds of contract disputes with Direct TV, people are annoyed they can't get the NFL network. The MLB is gonna be 24 hours, lots of programming, not just games. You know, all kinds of, you know history, analysis, you know even entertainment programming starting 2009. And I think the draft will be a big part of that as well.

Ryssdal: MLB as a brand. The business of sports with Diana Nyad. Thanks, Diana.

Nyad: Thank you, Kai.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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