Minor league (MiLB) baseball players should be compensated higher wages

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Matthew Shaugabay , Reporter

Many sports enthusiasts grow up idolizing professional baseball players and dreaming of one day playing baseball on the biggest stage in Major League Baseball (MLB). However, players that endure the trials and tribulations of working their way up through the ranks of a minor league organization should be given an increase in pay.

For years Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players have been treated unfairly and not compensated properly for the work that they do and the tough times that they go through. Minor league baseball players deserve to be paid more.

Minor leaguers are far from living the glamorous lifestyle that Major League baseball (MLB) players do. While a star like Mookie Betts of the LA Dodgers earns millions of dollars every year, and MLB organizations bring in billions of dollars each year, some minor leaguers are left earning a salary below the minimum wage.

“On average, players make around $1,100 a month after taxes. This rises as they move up in the levels, but many must endure these wages for the span of a couple of years making it necessary to get off-season gigs. This can be difficult to do, granted the short length of the off-season. Talk to any minor league guy, that’ll be the first thing they will mention,” Professional and Amateur Hitting Instructor Alejandro Gomez said in a phone interview.

Gomez has worked for multiple MLB organizations over the years and has seen first-hand the struggle that these players go through to make ends meet. These struggles force minor leaguers to get creative and find ways to save money while also making money on the side.

“Minor league guys are creative and resourceful. They have to be. I’ve seen guys share rooms, turn the living room into separate rooms via bed sheets for privacy, move into vans. Some guys even do lessons on off days to make some extra cash for the rest of the week. It really is astonishing some of the things these guys will do to keep the uniform on,” Gomez said.

Not all minor leaguers have to live like this, there can be some outliers. Players that are drafted in the higher rounds of the MLB draft typically sign contracts with substantial signing bonuses.

For example, according to the MLB Draft Tracker, 2021 first overall pick Henry Davis signed to the Pittsburgh Pirates, for $6.5 million. The year before, first overall pick Spencer Torkelson signed for $8.42 million.

Although these signing bonuses are sizable, those who actually receive this type of money are a very small percentage of an MLB organization’s minor league system.

An article from FanBuzz.com said, “Top draft picks don’t have to worry about these nuisances. Some first-year players out of high school and college earn six-figure and seven-figure signing bonuses when they sign. But for those that don’t, which is most of a franchise’s minor leaguers, they take home way less than any state’s minimum wage.”

I think one major aspect of this problem that is overlooked is the effect that this has on players’ mental health. Imagine being a professional athlete that is expected to take care of your body, provide for yourself and sometimes your family, and perform at the highest level of the game, all while earning below minimum wage.

Aside from earning low wages, Gomez said that these players also work 10 or more hour days and travel, all while trying to maintain a personal life. These players are under extreme amounts of pressure everyday, just to keep their jobs.

“I think there is an ongoing quiet mental health crisis in the minors. Given the circumstances and the pressure of performance, many guys have taken to self-medicating to cope. Some of these guys enter professional baseball as teens, thrust into a man’s game and an environment far from home,” Gomez said.

Amidst all of these problems for minor leaguers, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Organizations are beginning to take action and are finding ways to help out these players.

“MLB organizations have also agreed to provide housing. Teams have also started to allocate more resources into their player development departments in regards to providing mental health support and better nutrition,” Gomez said.

At the end of the day, this is still not enough. MLB organizations need to do better. Professional athletes should not be making below minimum wage, especially when so much is expected of them. This game is their livelihood, and it’s a game in which you are going to fail more than you succeed. Failure is already tough enough to deal with, and is made more difficult when you are living in these conditions. Major League Baseball needs to reach deep into their pockets and find a way to make this game that these players grew up loving worth playing.