Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • How much hardship do minor leaguers experience?

    Lily Rothman of Slate.com recently wrote a very interesting piece on the treatment of minor league baseball players and their plight to make ends meet.

    Rothman noted that these “hidden underclass of workers” make a salary comprising of $1,100 a month and receive that pay for only half the year. As opposed to their major league brethren, minor leaguers have little or no protection as a working class.

    There have been some players within the system who have championed for some labor changes. According to the article:

    The last player to talk seriously about minor-league unionization was Garrett Broshuis. In 2006, Broshuis was playing for the Connecticut Defenders, the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The pitcher, who was sharing an apartment with some teammates in a bad neighborhood in Norwich, Conn., got radicalized after an upstairs toilet clogged and flooded the place. “That was kind of the moment where I realized this isn’t really fair,” he remembers. “It’s not fair that I’m playing in front of seven or 8,000 people each night and making pennies.”

    Broshuis, who is a good follow on Twitter, tried to make some inroads with his fellow minor leaguers and convince them that unionizing was in their best interest. Nothing came of it.

    Things are even worse for the independent leaguers who do not have the incentive of being within a major league team’s system, you get little pay and no assurance that you may have a chance of reaching the next level:

    But there will always be players like Tom Zebroski, a 45th-round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2010. As a first-year player, he made $1,100 a month before taxes, and his bonus wasn’t any bigger. Zebroski had promised himself he would never play in an independent league, with no direct route to the big leagues and even less money than you get in the minors. But when he got released by the Royals last year, Zebroski changed his mind. He decided to work in the offseason to save up for the chance to have a chance. “It's one of those things that, if you give it up before you're ready to, you'll be questioning yourself,” he says. “Like, what if I'd done this, what if I'd done that, what if I'd given it one more year?” He now plays for the Traverse City Beach Bums in the Frontier League, where the salary cap is $75,000 per team and the minimum salary is $600 a month.

    Books like Dirk Hayhurst’s Bullpen Gospels and Out Of My League in addition to Matt McCarthy’s Odd Man Out provide inside glimpses to the world of a minor leaguer. Most of us consider these players extremely fortunate to be doing what they do for a living but forget that because of the lack of pay, they are often living three deep in a one bedroom apartment and sustaining off of peanut butter sandwiches.

    Here at Twins Daily, we are lucky to have a consortium of minor league players who have provided us a look into their on-field experience (and a bit of the off-field summertime work) but I think it would be interesting to hear about the day-to-day life of a minor leaguer away from the ballpark. Is it really as grim as Rothman portrays it, or is it similar to a college experience where you are eating wish sandwiches (you know, “boy I wish this Ramen was a sandwich”) and living off of well short of $1,000 a month that minor leaguers make? It sounded like squalid living reflecting back on it now but at the time you just rolled with the punches. Perhaps that is how minor league life is as well.

    Either way, the Slate.com article is an interesting read and it is a topic worth mulling over.
    This article was originally published in blog: How much hardship do minor leaguers experience? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I believe the pay goes up as players move up... Veteran AAA types can do OK, but there is a reason that many of them jump at the opportunity to play Winter Ball. I talked to someone once about the 40 man roster. If a player is added to the 40 man roster, their minor league pay jumps nearly 8 times then first year, then a little more if they're on the 40 man roster the second year, and so on. But even a AA player generally only makes about $1,500 a month. It is absolutely ridiculous, if you ask me.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I think that it all is relative. Compared to MLB salaries (like Butera making $400+ K each of the last 2 seasons, why?) early MiLB salaries are indeed very low (close to minimum wage). On the other hand, compared to trade apprentices or even graduate school stipends, there are at the same level. Plus most of the MiLB teams do operate on a loss (usually off-set by the parent club) or barely make it even. Another thing to consider in the equation is the signing bonuses. Most minor leaguers got signing bonuses. Few other entry-level jobs that this happens out there.

      So I think compared to MLB, yes they are grossly underpaid (or rather players like Drew Butera are grossly overpaid) but compared to the rest of the jobs out there, they are just about right... plus way more fun to do as a job than many
    1. Highabove's Avatar
      Highabove -
      An Independent League player has a good chance of getting signed if he can dominate and is still young.
      The Twins purchased pitcher Caleb Thielbar from the Saints last year. He is playing in Ft. Myers.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Thrylos, I'll agree that when the signing bonus is factored in, it may be more equitable to real life. Those drafted in the first round get a million, and it drops from there. Most players that get taken after the 10th round get hardly any signing bonus, so I'm not sure that helps most.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      I don't know, when you consider that most of these guys, especially in the low minors are only 18-22 years old, I don't consider the pay that out of line. How much do other non-college grads make in their first few years of work out of high school? As they get older they are making an informed decision that the potential long term reward is worth the short term suffering, like many end up doing in their careers. It's just that in baseball the potential reward is many times greater than most of us will ever realize. No one is forcing any of the guys to pursue the dream, if they feel there is a more rewarding career path out there, they are welcome to pursue it.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      ok. This actually has more information. Apparently there is a cap but only for the 1st year of a players MiLB career and that depends on the level he plays. Subsequent year salaries are subject to negotiation and AAA salaries (according to that write up with 2011 data) are around $35K for the 25th percentile to $68K for the 75th percentile. That excudes situations like Nishoka's, Lannon's, Marquis', Slowey's etc... so $50K or so median for a half year worth of work is not that bad is you look at the big picture of things
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      AAA and 40 man roster salaries look nice. Minor League F/A salaries look good... But how about a player spending six years in the minors and only getting to Hi-A or AA? Maybe they can negotiate to go beyond the $1,050 per month, but they don't have much power in that negotiation. The sad thing was that the foreign players could be paid as little as $300 a month!! Wow!
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      The sad thing was that the foreign players could be paid as little as $300 a month!! Wow!
      Yeah and I bet that's borderline illegal (less pay for the same work). on the other hand, $300 a month is way much more than what a family of 4 lives on in the Dominican
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Let's see...bank teller and cab driver were the first two jobs I tried out of high school. Neither paid squat, but I was lucky - my roommate sold pot to help make rent.

      Hey, Ramen is good food!
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      Let's see...bank teller and cab driver were the first two jobs I tried out of high school. Neither paid squat, but I was lucky - my roommate sold pot to help make rent.
      I don't take many cabs but this seems like the profile of most of the bank tellers I encounter lately.
    1. 60ft6in's Avatar
      60ft6in -
      A low level minor league player makes roughly $1100 to $1300 per month when assigned to a team. So during spring training, extended spring training or Instructs they make nothing! So below A ball you work for hotel food and a place to sleep for 3 1/2 months, play GCL or E-Town from June to Aug and make their pay then get nothing the rest of the year. If you make a long season team you get paid from April to Aug but now pay everything yourself.


      Playing minor league ball is about the opportunity. Dont fool yourself that its about the money! A minor league player makes below minimum wage and is below poverty. Most are helped by their parents! Those signing bonuses for the high rounds help but how many are getting those...?

      Comparing it to an apprenticeship in any other profession I know of its not even close!
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Question for those in the know. Do minor league players receive any sort of per diem for meals/expenses when on the road? If so, how much? I know major leagues get a pretty nice one, and assume that minor leaguers get something, though it's probably more in line with the IRS recommendations for the city traveled.
    1. jeffk's Avatar
      jeffk -
      This is a microcosm of the world at large. The major league players are making too much and the minor league players too little. Take an above-average but not phenomenal player like Cuddyer. If he made a cool $5M a year instead of $10M, you could give a substantial raise to every minor league player in the Colorado minor league system. I guess it would be a matter of changing various negotiating rules, or having major league salary caps, to make this happen.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by whydidnt View Post
      Question for those in the know. Do minor league players receive any sort of per diem for meals/expenses when on the road? If so, how much? I know major leagues get a pretty nice one, and assume that minor leaguers get something, though it's probably more in line with the IRS recommendations for the city traveled.
      $25 was $20 till a few years ago. Plus free hotel (shared) room
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      minimum of 67K annually for a player with one day of MLB service is pretty nice. You see why a guy can stick out into his 30s as a AAA type vet if he got that day in early on.
      It's like many jobs....pay your dues in the low minors & get a fairly desent payday if you can move up. Starting jobs often start at low wages & then improve with experience.
      Look at Sean Burroughs....pretty good paying gig after coming off 3-4 yrs of despair & he was able to make it back up to get a half million $$ job.
    1. Jeff P's Avatar
      Jeff P -
      The thing with most occupations is that they weed you out quickly if you are not going to make it. Here it takes many years and the chances of making it are very low.

      I don't feel sorry for the players, they are adults making their own decisions and the upside for those who do make it is incredible. However I do have a lot of respect for them because of the sacrifices they are making to follow their dreams. I don't think I could have done it even if I had the talent to give it a try.

      By the way, re AAA, my understanding is that if you are not a minor league free agent or on the 40 man, the pay is still really low. Our neighbors son was making 2200 per month last year at AAA according to the dad.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff P View Post
      By the way, re AAA, my understanding is that if you are not a minor league free agent or on the 40 man, the pay is still really low. Our neighbors son was making 2200 per month last year at AAA according to the dad.
      I gave the figures of AAA pay and the reference that had it. Median is around $50K. Not that your neighbour's kid could not be making $2200 a month, esp if that $2200 a month are net pay after taxes, insurance etc. and he just got promoted and has only 2-3 years in pro ball.
    1. Madre Dos's Avatar
      Madre Dos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I believe the pay goes up as players move up... Veteran AAA types can do OK, but there is a reason that many of them jump at the opportunity to play Winter Ball. I talked to someone once about the 40 man roster. If a player is added to the 40 man roster, their minor league pay jumps nearly 8 times then first year, then a little more if they're on the 40 man roster the second year, and so on. But even a AA player generally only makes about $1,500 a month. It is absolutely ridiculous, if you ask me.
      I know what short season A kids go through - I am one of the host moms. I get a little less than half of their take home pay and it doesn't even cover the grocery bill to feed them. I host mostly Latin kids and several of them are trying to send money home to parents and wives to help out. Playing 68 games in 71 days is grueling - with the amount of hours at the field and at the gym and the bus rides to away games, the kids are making way less than minimum wage.
    1. baseballoz's Avatar
      baseballoz -
      Minor league is tough for young players, especially those from outside the USA. These kids get put on a plane at 18 and have to make it in a world so vastly different from their own. Even if they come from an English speaking country, America has a completely different culture. Taking them away from their families and having to live with players they don't know and may not speak the same language as can be isolating, add to that the lack of money. Spring training is a love job as they don't get paid; they still have food to buy accommodation to pay for. We know of an international who worked from the day he arrived back home in the off season until the day he flew back to spring training just to get him through the year ahead. That makes it a very long year.
      There may be great rewards if you make it, but if you don’t, what other job do you come away from after 5 years as an apprentice, trained for nothing? This is what faces these boys, being 25 and having no backup. Would they change anything? I doubt it. I know not all players go through each level of the minor league system, but a lot do and when, and if they finally make it to the show, they are very grateful. They are living every kid’s dream if only for a few years.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      Quote Originally Posted by baseballoz View Post
      We know of an international who worked from the day he arrived back home in the off season until the day he flew back to spring training just to get him through the year ahead. That makes it a very long year.
      I don't disagree with most of what you say, but seriously, having to work year round makes for a long year? Uh, isn't that what a majority of adults do, work year round? Most college kids I know go to school full time while maintaining a PT Job, and then working FT in the summer to pay for next years tuition. Sorry, but I don't feel sorry for any of these guys for having to work in the offseason, the rest of us have to work 12 mos. a year, being a baseball player shouldn't exempt you.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.