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The Fate of Minor League Baseball

While minor leaguers already face financial struggles, with the lack of pay, some players fear their baseball careers are in jeopardy. Continue reading to discover how minor league players are battling these economic hardships

The Financial Challenges of Minor League Baseball

The unknown status of the Minor League Baseball season led to players cleaning out their lockers until further notice, where their baseball careers are at risk. Minor league players vigorously train all year in preparation for the regular season; however, during their off-season workouts, Fall League, and spring training, the players are not compensated, which makes this hiatus even more difficult for them to burst through. In addition, while teams provide housing options for the players during the season, that is not applicable at the moment. Players are staying with host families or splitting rent with teammates. This leaves players searching for places to live in the short term while trying to find ways to stay in game shape, as they have been told to prepare to take the field at any moment for the 2020 season, which appears questionable.

Minor League players have long struggled to make ends meet, where their salaries make it quite challenging to get by. The average salary for minor league players in Single-A is $6,000, Double-A is $9,350, and Triple-A is $15,000 per season. On top of that, players are expected to pay for their baseball gear, where it typically costs more than $1,200 per player. As of 2020, the federal poverty level for the US is $12,760 per person, which means that the majority of minor league players struggle to endure the difficulties surrounding Minor League Baseball.

The average salary for minor league players in Single-A is $6,000, Double-A is $9,350, and Triple-A is $15,000 per season

During the year, minor league players can sign up for player appearances, where they take part in speaking with local schools and do meet-and-greets, where they sign autographs at grocery stores. Players also have part-time off-season jobs throughout the year, while also training for the baseball season. However, with the 2020 season up in the air, minor league players have adapted to become drivers for Uber or delivering for DoorDash.

Rochester RedWings
Randy Dobnak was an Uber driver while playing for the Rochester Redwings (ballpark pictured) – DanielPenfield / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

While it is recognized minor league players are significantly underpaid, very little has been done about their pay over the years. The most significant step recently made was when the Toronto Blue Jays raised their minor league affiliate teams’ salaries by 50% in 2019, where every organization should follow the bandwagon.

Class Action Lawsuit

In 2018, Congress passed a bill called the Save America’s Pasttime Act, which states that minor league players are entitled to the minimum wage for a 40-hour workweek. At first glance, this sounds like a success; however, players are devoting upwards of 50-60 hours per week and are capped at collecting payment on the 40 hours. The bill’s name is rather ironic, as it’s doing precisely the opposite of saving America’s pastime, where the minor league system is flawed as players are significantly underpaid, and helpless when it comes to overtime. 

players are devoting upwards of 50-60 hours per week and are capped at collecting payment on the 40 hours

With the MLBPA representing only players on the 40-man roster, this leaves over 100 players per franchise in the minor leagues without any form of representation. That’s where Garrett Broshuis comes in, who is a former pitcher in the farm system of the San Francisco Giants, and now a lawyer representing a group of minor league players regarding the salaries of minor league players. He hopes to promptly bring his class-action lawsuit to trial against Major League Baseball for violating minimum wage laws. While the road to receiving fair pay is daunting, with the help of people like Garret Broshuis, it’s a step toward improving Minor League Baseball.

How Coronavirus Affects the 2020 MiLB Season

Whether or not MLB and the MLBPA agree to a deal for the 2020 season, minor league players are still not assured to step on the field this season due to health risks. With a spike in coronavirus cases, some cities may not have the authorization to play with fans in the stands, which means the teams that play in fanless stadiums will potentially lose money by competing.

some cities may not have the authorization to play with fans in the stands, which means the teams that play in fanless stadiums will potentially lose money by competing.

While minor league teams who play in larger stadiums may fare well with filling their stadiums to just 25% capacity, teams with smaller ballparks would need more than 50% capacity to make the same amount of revenue, which could make social distancing more of a concern.

Major League Baseball has the means to quarantine players if needed and implement routine testing, along with other precautions. However, Minor League Baseball has a significantly more challenging situation due to the expenses that come with those preventative measures.

The Contributions

In 1996, Major League Baseball players formed the Player’s Trust, a charitable foundation where players from the majors raise money while calling attention to the critical issues of their communities while helping those in need. Since the inception of the Player’s Trust, the foundation has raised over $17.7 million, with contributions to over 600 charities.

Major League players have contributed $1 million to support the minor league players

Major League players have contributed $1 million to support the minor league players due to the uncertainty of the minor league season through this challenging moment in time. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Andrew Miller, is a Player’s Trust Trustee, where he aspires to strengthen the resources available to the minor league players through this pandemic.

Andrew Miller of the St Louis Cardinals is a Player’s Trust Trustee
Andrew Miller (pictured) is a Player’s Trust Trustee – Erik Drost on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

In 2016, Jeremy Wolf of Trinity University, a Divison III school in Texas, was selected in the 31st round of the MLB Draft by the New York Mets. He soon after started More Than Baseball, a non-profit organization that helps to provide housing, food, equipment, and promotes life after baseball, such as career and financial services, to help minor leaguers have a more enjoyable life both during and after their baseball careers.

What Should We Do Now?

With minor league teams struggling to persevere through the pandemic, organizations have presented creative ways to find other ways of creating a stream of revenue.

Per CDC guidelines, the Trash Pandas, the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, has been hosting block parties at their ballpark, where they are offering youth day camps and movie nights on the field. They are also showcasing live entertainment and firework displays. 

Toyota Field (the new home of the Trash Pandas)
Toyota Field (the new home of the Trash Pandas) was due to be opened on 15th April 2020 – AFBMRK / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

The Clinton LumberJacks, the Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, are also offering curbside pick-up while presenting a free bobblehead with orders of $25 or more, that feature former LumberJacks players, including James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, Kyle Seager, and Ketel Marte. The LumberJacks also announced “Batting Practice at the Ballpark,” where fans will have the opportunity to take batting practice and win merchandise, such as game-used jerseys for anyone that hits a home run.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos… put their stadium on Airbnb, and within 24 hours, their stadium sold out for the entire month

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins announced they put their stadium on Airbnb, and within 24 hours, their stadium sold out for the entire month. For $1,500 per night, ten people have complete access to the whole stadium. With the clubhouse renovation taking place over the winter, the clubhouse features flat-screen TVs, ping pong tables, and a high-tech sound system.

Admiral Fetterman Field - Home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Admiral Fetterman Field – Home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos – Navarre0107 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

As for the living situation, the team’s dining room was transformed into a bedroom for the guests, which includes two queen-sized beds, four bunk beds, a refrigerator, a freezer, microwave, and a coffee machine. What is more, the ballpark lights will remain open until midnight, where guests can choose to participate in batting practice, which presents this as a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The Future of MiLB

While minor league baseball teams are already operating on low margins, in addition to the coronavirus taking a toll, MLB has yielded the restructuring plan for the minor leagues, where roughly 40 of the 160 teams may be hanging up their cleats. Despite the teams that could financially make it through this potentially lost season, any team could be dropped from MiLB. Whether or not there is a minor league season in 2020, more needs to be done to preserve the players of Minor League Baseball.

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