Sources told ESPN that Major League Baseball will now require minor league players to live in their homes starting in 2022 due to increasing pressure from players and advocacy organizations.
MLB has not yet made a formal plan, but six MLB officials said to ESPN that they are already preparing to house minor league players in each of their four affiliates. According to sources, the 30 owners of the league agreed to provide housing for minor leaguers in September. Sources said that they are yet to decide if they will provide lodging or stipends that cover the entire cost of housing. A spokesperson for MLB said that the league is working out the details.
As minor league players become more vocal about their working conditions, they criticize teams for paying salaries below the poverty line and for the financial difficulties that result from renting their homes for home games. Advocates for Minor Leaguers, More Than Baseball and their use of social media to highlight minor league player's living conditions and players' willingness to speak openly about their experiences have highlighted issues that players have been discussing privately for many years.
"This is an historic victory for minor-league baseball players," Harry Marino (executive director of Advocates of Minor Leaguers) told ESPN. "Finding and paying for in season housing was a top priority when we began talking to players this year about the challenges they face. This led to us making it our number one priority to address the issue.
Sources told ESPN that there was already a growing momentum behind-the scenes to provide housing for teams. Many teams are considering following the Houston Astros' lead, which this season provided lodging for all minor league players both at home and on the roads. Others offered rooms and stipends to certain affiliates.
According to two executives who were involved in the discussions, it costs less than $1 million to host all minor league players at home for a single season. Although the minor leagues are home to smaller towns with lower rents, some of the most expensive cities of the country include San Jose, the Low A affiliate of San Francisco Giants, and Brooklyn, which is the High-A affiliate.
Minor league players will often sleep in small apartments or on mattresses, even if they have lower rents. Many players claim that they've spent nights sleeping in their cars and at stadiums, even though they couldn't afford to stay in a hotel. Some players have difficulty finding apartments due to low income or poor credit and spend a lot of their paychecks on hotels where the discounted rates are barely lessening.
It is obvious how much this affects the body. Mental issues can only make the problem worse. Players are often offered a hotel room in order to rest for a few days before they have to find their own housing. Players say that housing is the biggest problem faced by minor leaguers.
Players claim that salaries are higher than this would make it impossible. Not all players will have financial problems, as there are international and domestic players who signed bonuses totaling $450 million. However, after taxes, the take-home salary of most players is negligible.
This season, minor leaguers saw their minimum wages rise from $290 to $500 per week at Class A to $350 to $600 per week in Double-A and to $502 to $700 per week for Triple-A. For a full season, Class A and Double-A players will each receive $12,000, Triple-A players $14,000., and Triple-A players $16,800. Higher salaries are available for veterans with significant service time in major leagues.
Marino stated that most Minor Leaguers earn less than $15,000 per annum and won't get their next paycheck until April. They will be spending hours training each day, as required by contract, while also trying to balance their second and third jobs to make ends work. This is like housing six players in an apartment with two bedrooms. The minor leaguers won't rest until they get the livable annual salaries they deserve.
The Save America's Pastime Act exempted minor league players from federal overtime and minimum-wage rules. This House bill, which was widely criticized in 2016, but was passed into law almost 2,000 pages into an omnibus spending bill for 2018, was a failed House bill. After the United States Supreme Court rejected MLB's request to dismiss the case, a class-action lawsuit was filed by players claiming they were not paid overtime and underpaid.
This is the latest development in a system of minor leagues that has seen a dramatic reimagining over the past year. MLB has cut 42 affiliates to make room for 120 teams in its restructuring of its development pipeline. The goal is for players to be paid more, travel less, and work in better conditions. Critics claimed that the elimination of affiliated baseball in smaller towns made the game more difficult to access and offered fewer opportunities to players to reach the major leagues.
More Than Baseball provided housing grants for minor leaguers this season. Advocates for Minor Leaguers also received support through a flood of social media posts. Sources say that minor league players who aren't part of a union have considered organizing to improve their working conditions.
Marino stated, "It was this extraordinary behavior -- minor league player unification and using their collective voice -- which ultimately upset the status-quo."
Although the Major League Baseball Players Association doesn't represent minor league baseball players, some of its rank and file members have publicly supported the advocacy groups. Advocates for Minor Leaguers distributed wristbands with the message "#FairBall" to multiple players. They included Trey Mancini from Baltimore, Andrew McCutchen of Philadelphia, and Chris Taylor from Los Angeles.