Mark Feinsand reported yesterday that MLB has extended support for MiLB players through May 31, or the beginning of the season, whichever comes first. MLB is looking to blunt the financial impact of the coronavirus on MiLB players, as MLB does not pay a salary or benefits to players during the off-season, spring training, or fall league baseball. The league had initially offered support from March 19 until April 8.
The support for eligible players will include their regular pay, the use of their Continuing Education Plan, and medical insurance. Those players not eligible include those on Major League contracts, already receiving housing and food from their clubs, and those on the retired, restricted, and ineligible lists. Additionally, MLB is providing $30 million in assistance for ballpark workers.
MLB’s action comes after years of criticism for paying minor league players at or below the Federal poverty level. The average wage in Rookie and A ball is currently $290 per week, AA is $350, and AAA about $502. They also receive a $25 per day food stipend for road games. Players have to pay for their bats, batting gloves, and baseball mitts and have a difficult time finding employment in the off-season because employers do not want to invest in an employee who will be gone again in four months.
Some MiLB players sued MLB in 2014 because they felt they were not making minimum wage, but Congress passed the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” which indemnified MLB from minimum wage laws. The bill was attached to a $1.3 trillion spending bill at MLB’s urging. The perception of the problem is so dire that aid organizations are popping up to assist the players. “Adopt a Minor Leaguer” asks people to donate $100-$200 per month and send care packages to a player they connect with a donor.
The coronavirus has added additional hardship as players may be stranded far from home or even live in another country, and teams are not required to pay for their travel. One was lucky enough to get an airplane ticket, but no money for the 7-hour taxi ride to his hometown.
As the criticism has intensified, MLB decided to give raises to all MiLB players beginning in 2021. Rookie league players will receive $400 per week, A ball will receive $500, AA will get $600, and AAA $700. Like the coronavirus aid, this is only one small step in the right direction.