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Equality, the Minors, and a Trailblazer

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 15 April 2019 · 685 views

minor league baseball emily waldon toronto blue jays
Today is a day like many other days during the Major League Baseball season. There’s both day and night games, and teams across the nation have scheduled contests. Unlike other days, today is a day in which every major leaguer will wear number 42. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and his digits forever remain retired paying homage to his efforts. More than just a color barrier though, this is a story of equality. Although baseball has come a long ways in that vein, there’s still one large stain on the sport.

The reality is that minor league baseball is the lifeblood of future major league generations. It’s on the farm that baseball dreams are realized, and the players earning those promotions are effectively rising towards the ultimate goal. Regrettably, minor league baseball is classified as an apprenticeship, stifled on an earnings scale, and publicly lobbied against in respect to livable conditions. It’s been a problem for years, and the discussion is finally heating up.

Exactly one month ago today, a writer from Michigan flipped the conversation on its head. Emily Waldon, an emerging talent recently hired by The Athletic, penned a piece that effectively dropped a bomb on Minor League Baseball as a whole. No longer was the discussion regarding the minor league pay scale cordoned to select avenues of Twitter or held back by the small audience passionately discussing the topic. Waldon’s piece, in which she talked with a handful of people directly impacted by the harsh reality, reached and audience a long time coming.

When the story originally came out, the Tweets we’re shared thousands of times. The lines were poured over, the story itself was retold and rippled throughout baseball. Waldon not only presented factual and accurate information, but she did so in a way that was conveyed with the utmost journalistic ability. Heartstrings were tugged, action was demanded, and thought was provoked.

Emily didn’t know she’d be here, she didn’t realize this would be a path she’d blaze, and she certainly couldn’t have predicted being this catalyst. “Honestly, I never had the goal of being involved on the minor league circuit, it just sort of fell in my lap…The track that led to the farm system was purely to fill a need for the site I was writing for and just sort of unfolded from that point.”

Even after writing such an impactful piece, Waldon realizes this isn’t about her and sees the issue as something needing to be addressed. Rather than credit what has taken place, or acknowledge the necessary discussion sparked, this has just been the culmination of work she is passionate about. “There have been many people before me who have written about these issues. My piece was really just a move to try and shed more of an honest light into how the season goes for the players and their families.”

It's because of her ability, track record, and previous work that this was even able to come to fruition. “I've wanted to write that piece for a long time. The issue and biggest challenge was gaining enough trust from the players for them to give me their experiences.” Clearly, it’s not lost on Waldon that there’s much more than a story being uncovered here, and the lasting impact is something that is an actionable goal when the dust settles.

As we jump back to today, change has occurred and while it isn’t monumental in number, it’s massive from an impact standpoint. Just three days after Emily’s report the Toronto Blue Jays announced that minor leaguers would receive a 50% pay raise. Obviously MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark approved of the decision, but it’s one that the major league union needs to put more pressure on. Working towards a livable wage presents a competitive advantage for Toronto’s organization, and while that shouldn’t be a driving factor, it making a production-based impact for even one prospect would provide significant return on investment.

Staying true to how she has represented herself, Waldon saw the reaction to her piece through the eyes of humility and gratefulness. A landscape altering article, from the hard work of someone who has risen to national prominence on her own, the reaction was simply thankfulness. ” The response blew me away. It's what I wanted but had no idea what to expect. Players were very pleased, and I received a lot of good feedback from team officials, as well. I was very humbled by how well it was accepted.”

For as much good has come from this reality being placed in a greater light, and for as much notoriety has been shed on the abilities of Emily Waldon, this is just the beginning. The Toronto Blue Jays took swift and measured action, but right now, they are alone. Minor League ballplayers are still grinding away at their craft. Small cities across the country play host to teams with a couple thousand fans in attendance. Although not every one of these players is the next Mike Trout, each of them is putting in the work to help their organization achieve the ultimate goal.

Discussing equality doesn’t always take place regarding the same circumstances. There’s never going to be a time in which any avenue of society should cease striving to be better. We’re always working towards something, and with this story Emily can end us like this, “My hope is more players get on board with what the Blue Jays have done. The players aren't expecting Major League salaries, but they need to know their organizations support them enough to boost compensation.” No one is looking for a change that shatters expectations, but the game of baseball continuing to be one that does truly breed equality needs to trickle down a few levels farther.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

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