They're Paid How Much?: A Fan Discovers Baseball's Underbelly
I grew up idolizing baseball royalty such as Theo Epstein and Billy Beane. One day I hoped that would be me, making the ever-important decisions for my favorite ball club. While I still dream about working in baseball, what I’ve come to realize is that the glitz and glamor I once envisioned in baseball is a rarity for most in the sport.
My name is Andrew Grier and I am a passionate baseball fan and hopeful future member of the baseball professional world. This summer I’m working as a program intern for More Than Baseball. As I dig deeper into the reality of baseball, I see the gritty underbelly of the game: The challenges and issues in the sport that many fans never see.
Last summer I worked for a High A ball club called the Asheville Tourists. On one hand, this experience of being that close to a game each and every night was incredibly rewarding. On the other, it opened my eyes to issues in the minor leagues far from the eyes of baseball executives like my childhood heroes. I saw firsthand how many issues such as low salaries, housing, equipment, access to health care, mental health resources, and others affected players in the lower levels.
While I hope to touch on all of these topics to shed light on what minor league players go through, I hope you walk away with eyes-wide-open to the poverty-level pay minor leaguers receive and the challenges that creates for them. Many people reading this will understand just how little these players make during their time in the minors, but I do want to remind you. According to a contract addendum signed by all minor leaguers at the start of the season, this is what the pay scale looks like for a current minor leaguer (this was posted to our Instagram account as well @mtb_org).
In the DSL, the lowest level of minor league baseball, players are making $117 per week. In addition players in the DSL are only paid from June to August therefore not including all the work they do with the team during spring training in March as well as all the work done in the off-season to stay in shape. Moving a level up to Rookie ball in the ACL, players are making 400$ per week. If we consider that salary at 40 hours per week, these players are making about $10/hour. However, most of the time players put in more than 40 hours a week during the season, and are working unpaid to improve their craft during the offseason. . The next two levels above rookie ball in Single-A and High-A each make 500$ per week, hardly a large difference from their days in rookie ball. Finally, the last two leagues, Double-A and Triple-A, each make 600$ and 700$ weekly. These salaries equate to between $1,800-$16,000/year.
Now that we know the exact details in regards to pay, I want to highlight a few key issues these salaries point out. According to the office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), a single-person household is considered below the poverty line if they make less than $13,590 in a year, and in a two-person household if they make less than $18,310. A majority of players in the minor leagues make below the poverty level as according to the salaries listed above their pay ranges from $1,800 to $16,000 a year. Want even more alarming statistics? Minor league baseball players in terms of salary alone are better off working as school janitors or even fast-food managers. According to Glassdoor, US janitors earn an average of $24,000 to $34,000 a year depending on school district, location, and other factors. As for fast food managers, Glassdoor has their average salary ranging from $24,000 to $54,000 again depending on the restaurant, location, and experience. The thing is some of these players do go and find themselves getting jobs such as these during the off-season just to be able to train and get ready for the next season. Some like Jack Labosky, a former Rays minor leaguer, take it to the extreme and live in a renovated bus to cut down his living expenses.
These issues in minor league baseball are not new. Players have dealt with low salaries, challenging working conditions, and little support for decades. But, with your help, we can change this. More Than Baseball has launched a campaign for a living wage for minor league ballplayers, provided over $1.3 million in direct support to these athletes, and continues to fight day-in and day-out for a better future for minor leaguers everywhere.