37th season kicks off with best convention ever

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A record managerial turnout for our annual retention draft in Kissimmee, Fla., launched the 37th season for the I-75 Strat League, with three new managers at the helm.

With 11 of the 15 managers drafting in person at Draft Central and four more participating remotely, the exciting first round stacked with big-time prospects had both predictability and surprises.

But logistically everything went smooth as silk, with the 14-round draft being completed in less than five hours, including a 30-minute break for some excellent pizza from Flippers.

The rest of the convention featured the usual traditions: ballgames in Kissimmee (last year for the Astros here), Lakeland, Melbourne and more. Dinners at Joe’s and Sonny’s. Steve Hart brought his own folding table. But surprisingly, Steve Bizek did not draft from a standing position in the kitchen.

With a slew of highly regarded prospects available, the first round was rich with young talent. Destin and Margaritaville started the proceedings by selecting Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Kris Bryant (the last two to the Volcanoes) with the top three picks.

Superior had sandwich selections at 4 and 6, taking Mets phenom Noah Syndergaard and Dodgers infielder Cory Seager around South Grand Prairie’s choice of Cubs phenom Addison Russell.

Boulder went for pitching at 7 with the Astros’ young star Lance McCullers, followed by Dyersville rookie manager Ryan Renbarger’s selection of the first of many prospects in Kyle Schwarber. West Atlanta manager Jeff Richards marked his debut with the selection of Yankees pitcher Luis Severino, the first mild surprise of the round based on mock drafts.

At 10, Satellite Beach opted for Twins young slugger Miguel Sano. Finally, at 11, a veteran was selected when Bismarck grabbed Curtis Granderson for his high on-base count vs. righties and unlimited availability.

At 12, Springfield added to its stable of lefty aces with the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia. Then came the pick that turned the tide of the first round and the direction of a couple of teams:

At 13, Bushwood skipped a chance to select Byron Buxton, regarded as the top prospect in baseball in 2013 and 2014, and filled a need at third base with Mike Moustakas.

So at 14, Applegate abandoned its intention of filling in holes at center field or first base and instead picked Buxton as a potential franchise player. The domino effect here was that it left Kendrys Morales available at first base when Savannah made its third-round selection, Applegate struggled to find a first sacker and Dyersville settled for Stephen Piscotty at pick No. 15.

More drama ensued throughout the subsequent rounds, but the high level of young talent scarfed up in Round One made for a memorable draft that will be reflected upon fondly for years to come.

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