It’s a tough road for many minor leaguers in the New York Mets system and others.
Before every great New York Mets player becomes a big league star, he starts off in the minor leagues.
While everyone knows about the millions of dollars that MLB players are paid to play the sport of baseball, fewer people know about the poverty-level wages that minor league players receive.
Minor leaguers aren’t paid during spring training and in the offseason, so playing baseball only pays them five months out of the year. When they are paid, they aren’t given much.
Even with a very tiny pay raise going into effect in 2021, Triple-A players will only make $14,000 over a 5-month season. Short-season players will make $4,800 over their 3-month season.
Instead of making an effort to compensate minor leaguers better, the MLB lobbied millions of dollars to Congress to pass the Save America’s Pastime Act, which legally allows the MLB to ignore federal minimum wage laws. Instead of using the millions of dollars to simply pay their minor league labor force more money, the MLB used it to suppress the improvement of the MiLB’s conditions.
Since the MLB is clearly not interested in improving the labor conditions of minor leaguers, it is left up to baseball fans to do the MLB’s job for them.
Minnesota Twins fan Michael Rivers started the “Adopt a Minor Leaguer” program last February to help MiLB players in need of better wages. The program allows fans to “adopt” a minor league player by sending $100-150 dollars a month in supplies, gift cards, or cash.
So far the organization has found sponsors for 404 MiLB players. Sponsors are able to choose which team’s farm system they want to donate to.
For Mets fans, that means being able to sponsor a player in the Mets organization. Sponsors can’t pick which affiliate their player will come from, but nevertheless it is exciting to be able to have a relationship with a player from potentially one of the Syracuse Mets, Binghampton Rumble Ponies, St. Lucie Mets, Columbia Fireflies, Brooklyn Cyclones, or Kingsport Mets team.
Mets fans will have more incentive to watch and participate in the minor leagues if they have a personal connection to one of the players. Nothing could be more fun for a sponsor than following their “adopted” player as they attempt to make their way up the Mets farm system. However, as much fun as that is for fans, the MiLB player is experiencing a real struggle.
2016 draft pick and former Mets farmhand Jeremy Wolf (who has started his own organization to help minors players called More Than Baseball) has spoken out against the poor labor conditions that minor leaguers face. Wolf said this in a letter about his experience playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones:
"“My 2017 season lasted seven months, March through September. March was unpaid. April – unpaid. May – unpaid. Sixteen days in June – unpaid. For 8-10 hours a day, six days a week, for sixteen weeks, I made $0. For my short season (72 games), I was paid $45 per game or $3 an hour for 70 hours a week. I was guaranteed two meals in my contract and rarely got food to eat. I had to purchase my own equipment (bats, cleats, batting gloves, first base mitt, etc.), rent, travel, and $80 a month for a group of rich high schoolers to clean my jersey. I played in front of 8,000 people a night and went to bed hungry. I made less money that summer than the batboy and after seven months of work, I left with less money than I started, and $2000 in credit card debt.”"
So before you romanticize minor leaguers for having the amazing opportunity to play the sport of baseball for a living, remember that there is a disturbing financial side to all of it. A kid’s game or not, playing baseball is a job for minor leaguers and they deserve a livable wage- not poverty-level wages.
As long as the MLB continues to feed their minor leaguers crumbs, it will be up to the fans to make sure that MiLB players don’t go to bed hungry.
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