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How much hardship do minor leaguers experience?

Attached Image: mlmdmainlogo.jpg Lily Rothman of Slate.com recently wrote a very interesting piece on the treatment of minor league baseball players and their plight to make ends meet.

Rothman noted that these “hidden underclass of workers” make a salary comprising of $1,100 a month and receive that pay for only half the year. As opposed to their major league brethren, minor leaguers have little or no protection as a working class.

There have been some players within the system who have championed for some labor changes. According to the article:

The last player to talk seriously about minor-league unionization was Garrett Broshuis. In 2006, Broshuis was playing for the Connecticut Defenders, the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The pitcher, who was sharing an apartment with some teammates in a bad neighborhood in Norwich, Conn., got radicalized after an upstairs toilet clogged and flooded the place. “That was kind of the moment where I realized this isn’t really fair,” he remembers. “It’s not fair that I’m playing in front of seven or 8,000 people each night and making pennies.”

Broshuis, who is a good follow on Twitter, tried to make some inroads with his fellow minor leaguers and convince them that unionizing was in their best interest. Nothing came of it.

Things are even worse for the independent leaguers who do not have the incentive of being within a major league team’s system, you get little pay and no assurance that you may have a chance of reaching the next level:

But there will always be players like Tom Zebroski, a 45th-round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2010. As a first-year player, he made $1,100 a month before taxes, and his bonus wasn’t any bigger. Zebroski had promised himself he would never play in an independent league, with no direct route to the big leagues and even less money than you get in the minors. But when he got released by the Royals last year, Zebroski changed his mind. He decided to work in the offseason to save up for the chance to have a chance. “It's one of those things that, if you give it up before you're ready to, you'll be questioning yourself,” he says. “Like, what if I'd done this, what if I'd done that, what if I'd given it one more year?” He now plays for the Traverse City Beach Bums in the Frontier League, where the salary cap is $75,000 per team and the minimum salary is $600 a month.

Books like Dirk Hayhurst’s Bullpen Gospels and Out Of My League in addition to Matt McCarthy’s Odd Man Out provide inside glimpses to the world of a minor leaguer. Most of us consider these players extremely fortunate to be doing what they do for a living but forget that because of the lack of pay, they are often living three deep in a one bedroom apartment and sustaining off of peanut butter sandwiches.

Here at Twins Daily, we are lucky to have a consortium of minor league players who have provided us a look into their on-field experience (and a bit of the off-field summertime work) but I think it would be interesting to hear about the day-to-day life of a minor leaguer away from the ballpark. Is it really as grim as Rothman portrays it, or is it similar to a college experience where you are eating wish sandwiches (you know, “boy I wish this Ramen was a sandwich”) and living off of well short of $1,000 a month that minor leaguers make? It sounded like squalid living reflecting back on it now but at the time you just rolled with the punches. Perhaps that is how minor league life is as well.

Either way, the Slate.com article is an interesting read and it is a topic worth mulling over.


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