Friday, October 16, 2009

The Plight of the Minor Leaguer, Pt. 1 of 6000

This week I've been working on a longer (by my standards) article on the depressed state of minor league salaries that will soon appear in Baseball America. Specifically, I'm comparing current salaries to those in 1975 and am giving reasons for why they've remained practically unchanged for 34 years.

I'm going to save the numbers for the article, but today I wanted to expound upon one of my favorite quotes from it:

"We had 12 players, two wives, and a baby staying with us all at once."

The quote is from Barbara Rothstein. Residents of Norwich, Connecticut, she and her husband served as a host family for the then Double A affiliate of the Yankees, the Norwich Navigators. As knowledge of her services grew, more and more players wanted to live with her to save money, and every sole was welcomed.

You might be thinking that a mansion would be needed to house all of these players, but in fact, they live in a normal looking, 3 bedroom ranch-style home. So, where did all the players stay? In a Hooverville in the backyard? Or perhaps they brought in a mobile home for the summer?

The full basement is partially furnished, with storage on one side and a long open space on the other. As you walk down the steps today, you'll see an older big screen TV on the far wall, but something else will immediately grab your attention: there are futons everywhere.

Almost all of the players stayed in this room--some with their wives--all of them sleeping on the futons in the cave-like darkness of the basement. It made for a strange sort of communal living that would even procure a look of disbelief from an anthropology student. They did so because their paychecks were so low and because Barbara kept them so well-fed. She even ran a shuttle-service back and forth to the park for them.

If you're in the minor leagues for long enough, you'll hear a lot of stories such as this. Though this is one of the more extreme examples, it isn't an isolated incident. Many players live in less than desirable conditions and yet play in front of 5,000 or even 10,000 people everyday they go to the park.

Now you know a small part of the "what." We'll talk about an example from the "why"s category in the next post.


garrettcook said...

I bet the living conditions were something to adapt to, but playing baseball for a living is a dream that only comes true to very few..the inconveniences would be something that many would give up high paying jobs to experience..I look foward to more of the story, and good luck next season...

Patrick said...

To follow up on my twitter comments: I agree with Garrett there are lots of people out there who would love to pay baseball professionally for pennies. I work for a minor league club and have for several years, my beef is when the players complain about pay when they get to play a game for a living.

The other difference from 1975 till now is the big league salaries. You make it to the bigs, get one contract and you are set for life. That wasn't the case in 1975.

gbroshuis said...

Thanks guys for commenting. Nobody is disputing the fact that we play a game for a living and we should be grateful. I've enjoyed every opportunity that I've gotten in this game.

I have buddies at home doing all kinds of jobs. My job is better than waiting tables at Applebees. I get that. But that is an unfair comparison.

What you have to realize is that baseball owners are taking advantage of players simply because they are young men with dreams. This should not be allowed. They should not be able to pay wages that fall below minimum wage simply because it's seasonal work and in the entertainment industry.

When a person comes to this country looking for work, they do so with hopes and dreams. Yet simply because they have these hopes and dreams employers aren't allowed to take advantage of them and not pay them a decent wage. Baseball owners, as employers, are not paying fair wages.

Again, I understand I am playing a game for a living. But it's hard to live on what they pay us. We aren't expecting to be rich while in the minor leagues, we just want to be able to afford an apartment and a decent lunch. Is food and shelter too much to ask for?

Christopher said...

Walker here...yes, I'm alive and do keep up with your writing, although I hardly ever post. This reminds me very much of risk / know going in the risk, and you constantly are hoping for that reward. I think of rock bands (I wonder why, ha)...those guys are living in 1 room studio's eating corn dogs until their sense of taste is numb, just so they can play music. And while I agree that many of those guys would love to get paid next to nothing to play a show every night in front of people who half-way care, I also have to believe that at some point they want a steak instead of imitation meat. Rock bands know the odds, they know the pay, and they know their talent...the point is that every minor league ball player has to know the same. If they come to terms with the odds, their own talent and potential, and the pay, then they can weigh the risk / reward. Should they get paid more...I can't speak to that because we also have to be honest in evaluating minor league's a business, just like all things; if it doesn't make the stakeholders money then it doesn't flow from an investment standpoint. I can't tell you how much cash is flowing above the player and if there is too much of the pie being sliced off. I do know that attendance and participation, at least at some local minor league parks is challenging, and imagine many other places are similarly challenged. This is where you have the expertise ;) ......awaiting the figures...hopefully the game recognizes what the players are putting in, and adequately gives back.

gbroshuis said...

Good analogy. I think I'm going to use this in my next post.

crazedparent said...

That you're playing ball for a living means you should be okay with little pay is a tired excuse. It's still a job (I know, a fun one!, not some random pickup game, and you should be paid accordingly.

I'm actually appalled at the numbers you're tossing out -- puts all those MiLB games we watched last season -- every aspect of them -- into perspective.

And as a parent to a son who aspires to be a pitcher in the bigs, I hope the pay structure in the minors changes before he ever gets there!

Sange said...

A man went to the theatre for the concert. At the ticket office, he said to the ticket seller:
- Please sell me a half of ticket!
-I don't understand what you said. Why is a half of ticket? - asked the ticket seller.
- Because my left ear has been deaf from last year. I can hear with only one ear.

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