For the first time in about seventy years, the voice of minor league players is heard. For the first time there is an organization that is a champion for their rights. All this thanks to Advocates for Minor Leaguers.
For decades, minor league players have been vastly underpaid. They were/are supposed to stay in shape during the off season but are not paid for that. During (Extended) Spring Training, they don’t receive any pay. Housing, especially this season, is a problem for the players.
As you could read earlier this year, MLB forbade the use of host families because of the dangers of COVID-19, which is understandable. What is not understandable, is the fact that the MLB clubs left their minor leaguers alone. They had to find proper housing themselves. And if MLB clubs provided housing (read hotel rooms), the costs were deducted from the already meager pay.
In an article on the website of ESPN, it was explained how this housing situation causes a lot of stress.
“Kieran Lovegrove, an active pitcher for the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas, said he is living with six other teammates in a three-bedroom apartment, sleeping on a twin mattress, with one person sleeping in the kitchen and two others in the living room. Others like Shane Kelso — who spent part of the 2021 season with the low-A Inland Empire 66ers, another Angels affiliate, before retiring due to the living conditions for players — said four teammates bunked in a camper van in a trailer park while others lived out of cars.”
“It’s gotten to the point now where there are guys who are in a serious mental health crisis because of how stressful money is here,” Lovegrove told ESPN. “I really do think it affects not only their play on the field, but I think it affects quality of life overall. We’re reaching a point now where this is actually becoming detrimental to the players’ overall health, and the owner not addressing it is [the organization] actively saying that they don’t care about the health of their players.”
“Kelso said he was losing $1,000 a month from his savings and would have been broke before the end of the season had he not decided to retire; rent for his housing cost $2,000, but the team paid him $1,600 a month.”
And let’s make this clear once again, this $1,600 a month is only paid during the months of the minor league season.
“People don’t understand the mental strain that comes along with that, that you don’t know how much money you’re going to have at the end of each month and not knowing how you’re going to make ends meet,” Kelso said. “I was a late-rounder. I didn’t sign for a lot of money. The vast majority of players are in my position.”
The cutting of 42 minor league teams would improve the financial position of minor leaguers as their pay would increase, according to MLB. But for many players nothing has changed yet. But slowly things are changing because Advocates for Minor Leaguers gives minor league players a voice. In the past year, many players have addressed the poor situation they are in. It was all shown on the Twitter account of the organization.
As a result, the organization announced through its Twitter account that the Boston Red Sox now will offer additional benefits to Minor League players, including extended spring training back pay and a housing stipend retroactive to early May. Also the New York Mets starts to improve the housing and pay for their minor league players. Another club that has changed its policy regarding the pay of minor leaguers is the San Francisco Giants.
In the aforementioned and quoted article on the website of ESPN, the Los Angeles Angels organization is marked as one of the worst when it comes to treatment of their minor leaguers. In a reaction, Angels GM, Perry Minasian, stated: “”What is being reported is unacceptable, and we will look into it and address it.” Unacceptable… Still the Angels were very well aware of their treatment of their minor league players.
For now, there are only three clubs really taking actions to improve the situation of the players in their farm system. But it is a start. Slowly the situation is improving, thanks to the good work of Advocates for Minor Leaguers and its director and former minor leaguer Harry Marino.