Major League Baseball to Require Teams to Provide Housing for Minor League Players Starting in 2022

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Amid mounting pressure from players and defense groups, Major League Baseball said on Sunday it would require teams to provide housing for minor league players from 2022.

While the MLB is yet to officially present its plan, six team officials told ESPN they are starting to prepare to help players stay at each of their four minor league affiliates. In mid-September, the owners of the league’s 30 teams unanimously agreed to a plan that would provide housing for some minor-league players, the league said in a statement. It has not yet been decided whether they will offer allowances that fully cover the housing or provide the housing itself, sources said.

Minor league players have become increasingly outspoken about their working conditions, criticizing teams for wages that leave some below the poverty line and the financial problems that come with having to provide their own accommodation for games home. The emergence of Advocates for Minor Leaguers and More Than Baseball groups, their use of social media to highlight the lives of minor league players, and the willingness of players to officially talk about their experiences have highlighted issues including the players have talked privately for years. .

“This is a historic victory for minor league baseball players,” Harry Marino, executive director of the Advocates of Minor Leaguers and former minor league player, told ESPN. “When we started talking to players this season about the challenges they face, finding and paying for housing during the season was high on almost every player’s list. As a result, fixing this has become our top priority.”

In a statement, the league said in part, “MLB is engaged in a multi-year effort to modernize the minor league system and better support players in pursuing their dreams of playing in the major leagues. In 2021, we have increased salaries for minor league players by 38-72%, depending on level, and significantly reduced travel requirements during the season.In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars in minor league stadium upgrades across the country are already underway, including renovations facing facilities like locker rooms and training rooms. “

The momentum towards providing team-level housing was already building behind the scenes, sources told ESPN. Several teams were discussing following the example of the Houston Astros, who this season have covered accommodation for all of their minor league players at home and on the road. Other teams have offered rooms or allowances to certain affiliates.

The total cost for a team to host all minor league players at home for a season, according to two executives whose teams had considered doing so before the league continued its tenure, is less than $ 1 million. While the minor leagues in particular are populated with small towns and lower rents, they also include some of the country’s more expensive cities, such as Brooklyn, the High-A branch of the New York Mets, and San Jose, the Low. -TO. branch of the San Francisco Giants.

Even in places with lower rents, minor league players often cram into small apartments and sleep on air mattresses because their pay cannot provide them with more. Some players say they spent nights in their cars or in stadiums when they could not afford a hotel. Others struggle to secure apartments, whether due to low incomes or non-existent credit, and have spent the majority of their wages in hotels, where reduced staff rates barely ease the burden.

The physical toll is clear. Mental problems only make problems worse. When players are promoted, organizations typically provide them with a hotel room for a few days and then expect them to arrange accommodation on their own. Between getting new housing and figuring out how to get out of old ones, players say housing is the most acute problem for minor leaguers.

This would not be the case, according to the players, if the wages were higher. With signing bonuses between domestic and international players exceeding $ 450 million in 2021, not all face financial problems. But after taxes, the majority of players’ take-home pay is tiny.

Salary increases for minor leaguers this season have raised their minimum wages from $ 290 to $ 500 per week in Class A, from $ 350 to $ 600 per week in Double-A, and from $ 502 to $ 700 per week for Triple-A. For a full season, Class A players receive at least $ 12,000, Double-A players $ 14,400 and Triple A players $ 16,800. Some veterans, especially those who worked in the major leagues, receive higher salaries.

“Most minor leaguers make less than $ 15,000 a year and won’t get their next paycheck until April,” Marino said. “For the next six months, they will spend hours every day training – as the contract requires – while trying to balance the second and third jobs to make ends meet. Like accommodating six players in an apartment. chamber, it is a model of a bygone era. Minor Leaguers will not rest until they receive the annual salary they deserve. “

Minor league players were exempted from federal minimum wage and overtime rules by the Save America’s Passtime Act, a House bill that failed amid much criticism in 2016, but was enshrined in the nearly 2,000 page law in a 2018 omnibus bill. A class action lawsuit brought by players alleging they were underpaid and failed to work overtime remains in the court system after that the United States Supreme Court rejected MLB’s attempt to dismiss the case.

The housing tenure will be the latest change in a minor league system that has undergone a drastic reimagining in the past year. MLB cut 42 affiliates as part of a restructuring of its development pipeline to 120 teams, saying players would be paid better, travel less and work better. Critics said the loss of affiliate baseball in small towns made the game less accessible and offered fewer opportunities for players to climb into the big leagues.

The outcry reinforced the resolve of More Than Baseball, which provided housing subsidies to minor league players this season, and Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which built a wave of support with a barrage of social media posts. Minor league players, who are not part of a union, have discussed the organization to further help improve their working conditions, sources said.

“It was this unprecedented behavior – of minor league players unifying and using their collective voice – that ultimately upended the status quo,” said Marino.

Although the Major League Baseball Players Association does not represent minor league players, some of its grassroots members have shown public support for the causes championed by advocacy groups. Several players, including Andrew McCutchen of Philadelphia, Trey Mancini of Baltimore, Jason Heyward of Chicago and Chris Taylor of Los Angeles, wore a bracelet distributed by Advocates for Minor Leaguers that includes the inscription “#FairBall”.

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