Major League Baseball is finally addressing a major issue plaguing its minor league system: housing for players. The announcement comes after years of complaints from the coaches and players who have had to sleep in hotels or share rooms with strangers. Owners will be required to provide on-site living quarters at each team’s stadium starting next year, regardless of their level of success on the field.,
The “Major League Baseball to require teams to provide housing for minor league players starting in 2022” is a new rule that the MLB has implemented. The rule requires teams to provide housing for minor league players, which will be mandatory starting in 2022.
6:25 p.m. Eastern
ESPN’s Jeff Passan
- MLB insider on ESPN
- Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of Sports’ Most Valuable Commodity,” “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of Sports’ Most Valuable Commodity”
Major League Baseball said on Sunday that, beginning in 2022, it would compel clubs to provide lodging for minor league players in response to rising criticism from players and advocacy organizations.
While MLB has yet to publicly describe its strategy, six club executives told ESPN that they are already preparing to assist with the housing of players throughout their four minor league affiliates. The league stated in a statement that owners from the league’s 30 clubs unanimously agreed to a proposal in mid-September to provide accommodation for some minor league players. Sources said they haven’t determined whether they’ll give housing stipends or supply the housing themselves.
Players in minor leagues have been more vocal about their working circumstances, criticizing clubs for low-wage pay and the financial hardships that come with having to fund their own lodging for home games. The formation of organizations like Advocates for Minor Leaguers and More Than Baseball, as well as their use of social media to highlight minor league players’ living conditions and willingness to speak openly about their experiences, brought to light issues that players had been discussing privately for years.
“This is a historic win for minor league baseball players,” said Harry Marino, the executive director of Advocates of Minor Leaguers and a former minor leaguer. “Finding and paying for in-season accommodation was at the top of practically every player’s list when we began talking to them about the challenges they face this season. As a consequence, dealing with that problem became a high priority for us.”
“MLB is engaged in a multi-year effort to modernize the minor league system and better assist players as they pursue their dreams of playing in the Major Leagues,” the league said in a statement. “In 2021, we increased minor league players’ salaries by 38-72 percent, depending on level, and significantly reduced travel requirements during the season. Additionally, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of improvements to minor league ballparks around the country.”
Sources told ESPN that pressure to provide accommodations at the team level was already building behind the scenes. Several clubs were considering following the Houston Astros’ example, which funded accommodation for all of their minor league players at home and on the road this season. At certain affiliates, other teams supplied lodging or stipends.
According to two executives whose clubs had looked at housing all minor league players at home for a season before the league pursued its mandate, the total cost for a team to keep all minor league players at home for a season is less than $1 million. Though the minor leagues are mostly made up of small communities with cheaper rents, they also feature some of the most expensive places in the nation, such as Brooklyn, the New York Mets’ High-A affiliate, and San Jose, the San Francisco Giants’ Low-A affiliate.
Minor league players sometimes cram into tiny apartments and sleep on air mattresses, even in lower-rent areas, since their salaries don’t allow them to afford more. When they couldn’t afford a hotel, several athletes said they slept in their vehicles or at stadiums. Others have had problems finding residences due to a lack of money or credit, and have spent the bulk of their salary on hotels, where the teams’ reduced prices hardly help.
The toll on the body is undeniable. The mental health difficulties further exacerbate the situation. When players are promoted, organizations usually give them with a hotel room for a few days before expecting them to find their own home. Housing, players say, is the most pressing issue for minor leaguers, between finding new digs and figuring out how to get out of old ones.
Players claim that if pay were greater, this would not be the case. Not all players experience financial difficulties, with signing bonuses amongst local and foreign players surpassing $450 million in 2021. However, after taxes, the bulk of players’ take-home salary is insignificant.
This season, minor leaguers’ minimum salary increased from $290 to $500 per week in Class A, $350 to $600 per week in Double-A, and $502 to $700 per week in Triple-A. Class A players earn at least $12,000 each season, Double-A players $14,400, and Triple-A players $16,800. Some veterans, particularly those who have spent time in the big leagues, are paid more.
“Most Minor Leaguers earn less than $15,000 per year and won’t be paid again until April,” Marino said. “They’ll be spending hours each day training, as required by contract, while also juggling second and third jobs to make ends meet for the next six months. This is a broken model from a bygone period, similar to having six players in a two-bedroom apartment. Minor league players will not rest until they are paid a decent yearly pay.”
The Save America’s Pastime Act, a House measure that failed under considerable criticism in 2016 but was tucked into law roughly 2,000 pages into a 2018 omnibus funding package, exempted minor league players from federal minimum-wage and overtime requirements. After the United States Supreme Court refused MLB’s effort to dismiss the case, a class-action lawsuit brought by players claiming underpayment and lack of overtime remained in the courts.
The housing obligation will be the most recent modification in a minor league structure that has been completely overhauled in the past year. MLB said players will be paid more, travel less, and work in better circumstances after cutting 42 affiliates as part of a restructure of its development pipeline to 120 clubs. The loss of affiliated baseball in smaller communities, according to critics, rendered the game less accessible and gave less possibilities for players to reach the big leagues.
More Than Baseball, which gave housing allowances to minor league players this season, and Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which has developed a tsunami of support with a blitz of social media postings, were reinforced by the outrage. According to reports, minor league players who are not members of a union have explored joining to help improve their working circumstances.
“It was this unusual conduct — minor league players banding together and speaking out — that finally rocked the existing quo,” Marino added.
Although the Major League Baseball Players Association does not represent minor league players, several of its members have shown public support for the advocacy organizations’ objectives. Advocates for Minor Leaguers has delivered a bracelet with the message “#FairBall” to a number of players, including Andrew McCutchen of the Philadelphia Phillies, Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles, Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs, and Chris Taylor of the Los Angeles Angels.
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