Many Americans are facing harsh realities brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, obviously, or it wouldn’t be a big deal. This column is not intended to single out MiLB players as the only people suffering or to indicate they have it worse than any one group. But this is an issue that has really caught my attention this season and it started before this virus came to our shores.
Earlier in the Spring some stories started coming out about MiLB players receiving no pay while attending MLB Spring Training camps. I’ve since come to realize not only is this an old story but it’s been covered well by Emily Waldon from the Athletic. Do give it a read if you have a subscription, its really eye opening.
The average salary for most MiLB players sits around 12,500 dollars a year. The lowest level players will earn somewhere in the 300 dollars a week range. A travesty that MLB lobbied the US Congress to keep in place. Providing a living wage to these players was seen as “Killing our Pastime” by MLB and their lobbyists.
The new issue is beyond even that. See now players won’t be paid at all while play is suspended. Sure, this is equal treatment as MLB players will also not be paid, but MLB players have the added benefit of having been paid at least half a million at some point. MiLB players on the other hand are still under contract so they can’t file for unemployment. Nobody will hire them because they can be called back to work at any time. The players are expected to stay in game shape even while practice facilities are closing all around them.
For every player that receives a multi-million dollar signing bonus, there are 200 who received a multi-thousand-dollar offer, long since spent perusing their dream and providing their own equipment. It’s enough to make you wonder why any players would sign out of high school outside of the first round, if you’re going to be dirt poor, might as well get an education in the process, know what I mean?
Many of these players rely on host families and the generosity of the communities they play in to get by. On a recent trip to Altoona I saw this firsthand, many restaurants have signs in front of the building notifying Curve players they eat free or at a nice discount. In lower levels there are literally networks of locals who offer free room and board to help.
This game is an incredible money-making juggernaut, and the riches gained by those who make it are at the very least well earned. What about those who don’t make it though, how do they fare? The answer is fairly obvious. And right now, it’s simply unconscionable to expect them to just be ok.
We see these players as the finished product they become when the reach the Majors and we cavalierly question the work ethic of 75% of the players who make it. At the very least, think of the journey they’ve taken and what they’ve given up getting that one call up. One chance to get an MLB paycheck even if for one game and how life changing that chance could be.
This issue isn’t going to go away, and I want to use my admitted small platform to highlight it. Most seasons, Spring training ends and attention turns immediately to the MLB club, the special circumstances of this season have created an opportunity to keep the focus on the suffering the league is actively working to keep in perpetuity.
Please keep these players in mind, we aren’t the only one’s suffering without baseball.