Orioles Cut Free Housing for Minor Leaguers
Players are considering sleeping in cars instead of spending 100% of check on team hotel
It is no secret that minor league baseball players aren’t paid well. Usually, the players' men in their late teens or early 20’s who went into baseball instead of going to college or recently graduated college are trying to get their one shot at the major leagues. They don’t expect Major League level stadiums or service, but there is an expectation that the teams will hold up their end of the deal in regards to housing and food after games. However, over the past few months, more players are speaking out about just how bad these conditions are.
One big issue this season has been around housing. In previous seasons, players would often stay with a host family or a bunch of players would rent a small apartment together. This kept costs low and let the players spend the little money they were receiving from the team on things like food. It also allows them some flexibility if they get a promotion during the season and get called up to a higher-level team. Yet that changed in 2021 as teams set up “team hotels” for players instead of placing them with host families. At the beginning of the season, things went well as the team covered the costs of the hotel, but recently a number of teams have decided to drop that promised benefit informing the players that they will need to pay for their own housing.
One team the Bowie Baysox, a double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, told their players on June 15th that starting on their next homestand, which begins on June 16th, the players will have to cover the costs of their hotels. The players expect to be paid about $900 for the two-week homestand, but the hotel will cost about 80% of their paycheck. This led multiple players to inform the Advocates for Minor League Baseball, an advocacy group for Minor League players, that they were considering sleeping in their cars instead of spending a large portion of their checks on the hotel. After the story came out, the team stepped in and was able to negotiate the price for the rooms down to 40% of their paychecks, but that is still higher than the 30% of your salary that the federal government recommends that you spend on housing.
Players in Bowie aren’t the only ones dealing with this issue. Players on the Myrtle Beach Pelicans were recently told that they’d be on their own for finding housing on the night of May 30th because the team hotel was sold out. They were told this just hours before the players needed to find a place to sleep. After the story came out and more than a dozen players said they would be sleeping in the locker room, the team miraculously found enough rooms for the players. Multiple St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers also told Advocates for Minor League Baseball that staying at the team hotel, with two meals a day, costs them $75/day, but they only make $72/day. This means the players are essentially playing for free whenever they are playing at home.
Players in the Oakland A’s organization shared these photos of their recent post-game meals.
No employer would serve these meals to employees they care about. Why are the A’s serving them to their future Major Leaguers? pic.twitter.com/cIFqiPg6iX
— Advocates for Minor Leaguers (@MiLBAdvocates) June 1, 2021
Players are also complaining about the food that they receive after games. With players often at the field late into the evening, it is common for teams to provide catering for players at all levels. However, a recent picture from an A’s minor league affiliate showed players being served a cheese sandwich with just one slice of cheese, a single piece of lettuce and tomato, or a fajita with barely any meat on it. After the picture was released the A’s released a statement saying "Several weeks ago, we were made aware of the postgame meals being served to players in our Minor League system. Those options were completely unacceptable and by no means meet our quality standards. We immediately ended our relationship with that third-party vendor."
Entering into the 2021 season a number of minor league teams were cut and MLB said at the time that this was done to provide more benefits for minor league players including higher wages and better facilities. This also led to an increase of the minimum minor-league salary, although minor league players are exempt from state or federal minimum wage laws. Players say that they routinely make less than the minimum wage once time spent on travel and appearances are factored in. Most minor leaguers will make less than $15,000 for the season which runs from April until September and includes up to two months of unpaid work during Spring Training.