Every night at 7 PM no matter what was going on, my Grandparents’ television had to be tuned into the Pennsylvania Lottery to see if they won the daily number drawing and almost every time they came up empty handed. There would be conversations about how they were one number off or it was a number they used to play, but stopped playing weeks ago. Then every once in a great while all the star aligned and the numbers would come out perfectly in order, just like my Grandma or Pap had played them. Immediately all the days, weeks or months of “losing” went away and there was celebration. Each grandkid got a couple extra bucks in their birthday card or there was an extra special trip to the Dairy Queen.
Looking back on these days, there are a lot of fond memories, but as an adult with a mortgage, bills, kids, groceries to buy I can’t help thinking about how much they lost before they won; realizing there is almost no way in the world that they won more than they lost over time and that they never hit for the big money/never got the big check handed to them. It didn’t matter, they keep on playing anyway. They kept on gambling, with the hope of that big payday and the celebration that would go along with it.
To me Minor League Baseball Players are much like my Grandparents were back in the day when they played the lottery. Putting in more than they may ever get back with the slim chance of getting that big check handed to them in the end and celebrating every small victory along the way, which most of the time is just enough to keep them going. An 0 for 20 slump followed by a 4-5 night, feeling homesick during a long bus ride in a part of the country you have never been to and hit a go-ahead home run in an extra inning game or striking out the side for a save after giving up the game winning hit two appearances in a row all keep the dream of “hitting the lottery” alive for many young men. In the end most are faced with the decision of “soldiering” on or making the difficult choice to hang up the cleats for good. Currently this decision is much more difficult than it has ever been.
Recently I have had my eyes opened to the fact that some people believe that MiLB players have hit the lottery in being drafted and/ or signed by a Major League Baseball team and to some degree I don’t disagree with them. I mean, how lucky is it to be given the opportunity to play the game that you love for a living. On the other hand, only a select few players every year are offered the big pay day, while most are given enough to get by with for a few years while they figure things out. If you think about it two or three, maybe five at the most are given that live comfortably for the rest of your life money in the draft and international bonus pool, while countless others are given just enough to entice them out of going to college or entering the workforce. So with each organization having between 275 to 290 Minor League players in their system it would probably be safe to estimate at most there are 50 players (at the high end) at any given time that fit into the life changing money category. That leaves as many as 240 MiLB players that are “gambling” and or “betting” on themselves, while struggling to get by. Some of these guys will win the lottery, but as I stated in an an earlier article approximately 9 to 13% of MiLB players that are drafted/signed will ever make an MLB roster. The odds are clearly against them.
I will admit that these odds are much better than my Grandma and Pap winning the a Pennsylvania Lottery, but most of the time the results are clearly the same. A few extra bucks to put in the family birthday cards and a couple extra trips to the local ice cream shop, but not enough to bank on and rarely ever enough to retire on. Most of the time it creates a few fond memories and a lot of questions as to whether or not it was worth the gamble.