Minor League baseball not as glamorous as it seems
The night game was delayed for one hour and thirty minutes by a thunderstorm, finally ending at 11:30 p.m.
Players slouched off the dank diamond and slowly entered their cramped visiting team’s dressing room facility.
After players took showers and gathered personal belongings, it was 12:05 a.m. Time to get moving to the next minor league baseball ball park for professional baseball’s apprentices, those trying to perform well under conditions not made for their best showings.
Major League Baseball is the goal of them all. After all, the minimum wage is now about $530,000 per six-month season. The average salary of all the players in the big leagues is $4.4 million.
But getting to the “Big Show” is difficult – physically, mentally and with the small compensation most minor leaguers are paid.
The travel in various minor league outposts, from Rookie League to Class AA, is by bus. If you have trouble sleeping on a bus, then don’t attempt minor league baseball.
Back to the team that is boarding its bus just after midnight. The next game is still on the road, but in a different town. There will be no motel for the weary players. The bus will carry them through the night to their next destination. Sleep if you can.
The next destination might be only a few hours away if you play in the Gulf Coast Rookie League in Florida, or the Appalachian League, which has teams in Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.
But that destination could be 11 hours away if you just played in Augusta, Georgia, and the next night’s game is 747 miles distance in Lakewood, New Jersey. Or 9.5 hours and 635 miles away if you boarded the bus in Hagerstown and the next game is in Rome, Georgia.
The far-flung South Atlantic League is spread so wide that Hagerstown doesn’t even play Asheville, North Carolina, or Greenville, South Carolina, in its travels.
Through the nights the teams go. The team owners save a night’s lodging by moving on after a game is completed. After the final game of a road trip, the players know that returning home at least means their own quarters will soon greet their tired bodies.
The player salaries at the lowest levels of the minor leagues are not conducive to saving money.
Living with host families is a way to get through the four to six months of the season. If finding a friendly basement to stay in isn’t possible, then five or six players will share expenses in a three-bedroom apartment.
Salaries in the Rookie Leagues or lower Class A circuits don’t amount to the $7.25 minimum wage for “work” weeks that average over 40 hours, according to Maury Brown’s March 26, 2018, Forbes article, “Minimum Wage Exemption is the Culmination of a Battle Over MLB and Minor League Economics.”
When on the road, players at that level do receive $25 per diem. Those players plying their trade at the Class AAA level receive $100 a day per diem.
The rigors of the lower minor league life are many. Should a player who didn’t receive a significant signing bonus get injured, he can’t play and is placed on the disabled list. He came with virtually no leverage because he did not have a signing bonus, and the major league team has no investment in him.
Another player with a similar background will take his spot on the active roster while he rehabilitates his body.
If he does return, his statistics and performance need to show hits, RBIs and home runs if he’s a position player, or strikeouts, few walks, wins or saves, and durability if he’s a pitcher.
Hundreds of minor league players are released from baseball as the calendar annually travels from April to mid-September.
How far does the $25 a day go for food? Fast food is the clarion call. Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken have to do instead of the Bavarian Inn, Nick’s Airport Inn or the equivalent of West’s Prime 44 Steakhouse.
The politics of baseball will be the ruination of some softly paid players. Many players don’t know it, but they are around simply to fill out a roster. They won’t play much. And when they don’t hit .320 they are given a “no prospect” rating and are often only days away from being released.
Minor league players have to surmount many obstacles just to survive. The ones from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic know it, but they want to give it a try in searching for a better existence.