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Selig has a blast fulfilling Draft night duties

MLB Commissioner glad to see growth in attendance for first round

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Each time he read a first-round selection Thursday night in the First-Year Player Draft at MLB Network, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig finished his announcement with a traditional emphasis on the words: "... and the [enter team] are on the clock."

They are among his favorite words.

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Each time he read a first-round selection Thursday night in the First-Year Player Draft at MLB Network, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig finished his announcement with a traditional emphasis on the words: "... and the [enter team] are on the clock."

They are among his favorite words.

"I tell you, I wish I could do that during Owners Meetings," he said between picks. "'You got five minutes, whether you like it or not.' No, I do enjoy it. I particularly relish it."

It is one of his favorite nights, the seventh year in a row he has read the first-round picks in a live event. This time there were a record nine prospects in attendance, eight of whom Selig greeted at the podium with a welcome. There were screams from families on hand. It went all according to plan.

"It really is terrific," he said. "They're so excited, they're so intense. I'm just watching people and how the clubs are reacting. This is what we had in mind. I love this night, I have to say.

"This is the way you build a baseball team. It was true when Branch Rickey said it 60, 70, 80 years ago, and it is true today. In any of the sports, the Draft is really key. This is different, because of reasons I don't have to go into. The fact of the matter is, this is a very important night for all of baseball and its clubs. While certainly there isn't the same as basketball and football -- where they've had college training and a little more sophistication because they've played longer -- the fact is, this determines your future."

The Competitive Balance A round and Round 2 were read by Tony La Russa and the various club reps at the tables on the floor. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. ET, and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.'s coverage includes 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 you can get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

In 2007-08, the Draft was held at Disney World. Then along came MLB Network as a 24-hour cable TV presence, and moving the event to its Studio 42 made sense. One had to wonder, however, whether this Draft setting, with a floor full of club reps and its makeshift dugouts and bleachers jammed with players, families and friends, is outgrowing its current space after five go-rounds.

"Well, we worry about that," Selig said. "I love coming here and I think the place is really well suited for it. But if that happens, it will be a good thing."

Going from five attendees last year to nine this time, and then seeing all the attendees selected in the first round, it stands to reason that next year likely could put the number in double digits. It is a far cry from that night in 2009 when Mike Trout was the only one on hand.

Two of the middle first-rounders who Selig greeted Thursday, Dominic Smith (Mets at No. 11) and J.P. Crawford (Phillies at No. 16), are products of MLB's Urban Youth Academy and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) initiatives that sprung during the Commissioner's term. And shortstop Tim Anderson of East Central Community College in Mississippi went 17th overall to the White Sox. Selig hoped that it was a harbinger for diversity, to build momentum in developing more African-American prospects.

"Frank [Robinson] and Tony La Russa and I were just talking about that," Selig said. "I'm proud of that. I think our initiatives in the academies and RBI are going to pay off. Not only with players, but more important in education and everything else we have done, but it certainly has produced a fair amount of very, very good baseball players."

The subject of the ongoing Biogenesis investigation came up during Selig's chat with reporters backstage between first-round picks. When asked if he had a response to Alex Rodriguez, who offered a statement earlier in the day about the matter, Selig said: "No, I do not. Nor would you expect me to have." Then he added: "We're in the midst of a very comprehensive investigation, and it would be inappropriate to comment, and therefore I'm not."

He did say that this shows MLB has made strides with its drug-testing program as part of the Basic Agreement with the MLB Players Association.

"I don't want to comment on that, except that I've said that I'm proud of our agreement, I'm proud of the fact that we have the toughest drug-testing program, and this proves it," he said. "I've said that most consistently.

"I'm going to let historians determine my legacy, and I mean that sincerely as a history buff. The only thing I will say is that this sport never had a drug-testing program, it went through the cocaine era of the '80s, went through a lot of other very serious matters. We couldn't get a drug-testing program. Now we have evolved to the toughest drug-testing program in America. So I'll let history show that. I'm proud of that."

The Commissioner talked about an abundance of rainouts and overall season attendance.

"On May 6, we had more rainouts than we had all last year. It's just hard to believe," he said. "We've played a number of games in subpar weather. I give the umpires credit, they got [recent rain-threatened games] in. I know it's tough. It's tough on fans. I can remember holding a game with the Boston Red Sox, 1978, I'll never forget it. We started at 10:30 at night and ended at 1:30 in the morning. I had to do some damage control the next couple of days. But the Brewers won, so nobody seemed to be too upset about it.

"We've got a lot of games to make up, No. 1. We have a lot of clubs who've had rain. I hope the weather will turn better, and warmer. I study it every day. People can say, 'Well it's an excuse.' It's not an excuse. It is not an excuse -- especially when the box office is affected by the weather. We had a club this week where it rained at 6 o'clock, it was still raining at 7, it stopped, but it was too late for people to come. We watch it every day."

Asked if MLB can get "back to level" in season attendance, he said, "I hope so. I'm always hopeful."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.