“Like Hunger Games”: Sub-leagues complain about wage shortage during extended spring training

Each high league team organizes a so-called extended spring training, which is called “extended” for short. This is an environment that is out of sight for most sports watchers, except perhaps those who watch the development of players religiously. However, an extension is often a crucial and difficult step for young players, especially those on Latin America who complete a much extended list.

As a change from just a few years ago, most Premier League teams pay their players for extended periods of time as they train and play games. However, five teams did not pay this year, according to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, who identified Ad, Angels, Brewers, Marlins and Reds as their clubs.

“You think you’re in hell because the first thing is that it’s hot, it’s really hot,” said a player who has spent a long time in recent seasons. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in Florida or Arizona, it’s hot. And there are a lot of people. So you don’t have a lot of playing time or a lot of playing opportunities, so you’re stressed. You’re just starting your career.

“You don’t make enough money to eat because it’s not even enough money to just eat.… So coping with all this stress and not being able to eat well is just that someone doesn’t like to be long. You can ask anything. Once you’ve stayed longer, you’ll never want to be back.

During the overtime, all teams will provide players with accommodation and food in the complex. However, for those who do not receive a salary, extended players have sometimes put up money for groceries because they were given a small amount of food.

“It was $ 20 a day,” said the same player who did not receive a salary during his extended period. “$ 20 was for dinner because they (the team) gave you breakfast and then lunch. But like sometimes, their lunch was a sandwich. So every time you come back from the game and then from 9pm to 9pm, you’re hungry again.… You There’s not even a car, so you have to drive over it.

When this spring’s training ended, most players were assigned to a club that plays the entire season schedule, be it a Premier League team or one of the typical levels in the smaller leagues, Triple A to Single A. But each Premier League team kept dozens of players in a Florida or Arizona complex for a long time. where players trained and played games in April and May, often focusing on specific skills. Then in June, most of these players moved into a Rookie-level league of the same complexes, where a salary is needed. (In Florida, for example, it used to be known as the Gulf Coast League and is now called the Florida Complex League.)

Harry Marino, CEO of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, said that in 2021, his organization interviewed small league players and found that about two-thirds of the top league teams did not pay players extra pay for extended spring training. This created a scenario where extended players were only paid for about three months a year. As they were not paid during the break, spring training or overtime, some players only had an official salary during a difficult league schedule. The current salary scale for complex leagues set by high league clubs is $ 400 per week.

Proponents of the minor leagues began to publicize the issue, which Marino said contributed to rapid change – the Giants, the Forest, the Nationals and the Red Sox were among the teams to change their policy to pay players a complex league salary during their long spring training. to repay for the 2021 season.

According to the team official, Orioles paid the salaries to the players this year from the first game in the extended spring training, on April 21st.

What teams are required by law to pay players during an overtime is part of a long-running collective action known as Senne v. under the name of the Office of the Commissioner and is currently being negotiated.

So it is clear that what we have seen is based on raising our awareness and taking responsibility for what the teams are actually doing, the norm has shifted from not paying a year ago to paying that year, ”said Marino. “But there are still a handful of teams that don’t pay players long salaries, so there are still some players in the smaller leagues this season who are on their way to earning less than $ 5,000 a year.”

Three of the five teams identified by Advocates as not paying long-term salaries, Ad, Brewers and Reds, did not respond to the request for comment. The angels declined to comment.

“We have made significant investments and improvements in our entire player development system for our team members, including more recently focused on benefits, housing, nutrition, education, mental health resources and more,” a Marlins spokesman said in a statement. “As with all aspects of our business, we are constantly reviewing how we can continue to enhance the experience and work environment of all members of our organization.”

Marino said: “These five teams have absolutely no excuse for continuing to refuse to pay their lowest paid employees for months of work.”

The list of each team is different, but the composition of the spring extended training lists is mostly Latin American.

“Looking at the demographics of players on extended spring training lists, be it racial, educational or otherwise, it’s clear that MLB teams take advantage of a particularly precarious group of players by failing to pay for extended spring training. That’s very problematic,” said Marino.

The Athletic interviewed four players who were either this season or in extended spring training in recent years, including two Latin American players. Both felt that MLB clubs were taking advantage of players from far and wide.

“If you are 19, 18, you don’t have enough money to buy a car here. And like, you don’t speak English, you don’t know anyone and you’re stuck in a hotel and you don’t know where to go, ”said one Latin American player. “So there are boys, they go to Walmart and buy a pile of bread, bread and ham and cheese for a professional athlete almost every night. We did it all the time, maybe four or three times a week to get the food they gave you. .

MLB did not respond to the request for comment.

Another player from Latin America said he felt involved in the system, “like the Hunger Games.”

“Just go through it and if you win, you’ll get a big prize to get into the big leagues,” he said. “You get the lifestyle you’ve been dreaming of. If not, the team just sees that they don’t need your services, that’s goodbye, just like that.

“I have cases with friends that as soon as they get the money, they went straight to Western Union, sent back about $ 80 to their families, $ 90, just stayed with everything and bought as much Chipotle. Try to get as much rice as possible. and try to save it for a few days to live in your room.

The lack of salary hindered players in various ways. Many players sign up for small song bonuses, and everyone has bills and worries in addition to food.

“One good thing is that we can eat in the complex,” said the player who was in the long spring this season. “But only when it comes to food that you have in the apartment and stuff like that, if you go hungry at night and stuff like that, the money will definitely go fast. And it’s not just about nutrition. Some people didn’t really give up.

One player said the lack of pay contributed to the exhaustion of the sport.

“They understand that we don’t really earn a minimum wage here,” he said of his teammates. “They can make more money just by DoorDash (workers) or just by working on the construction. That’s why a lot of players who decide to give up baseball and have a lot of potential get it. It’s just sad, but I fully understand: they have responsibilities, they have family, “Who they have to take care of. Most of the conversations between us are just kids dreaming about what it would be like to get into the big leagues and how we do this and that, how we help this or that man. It’s just confusion.”

The Metsa player, who received a refund for an extended period of time in 2021, noted how easy it seemed for the team to make changes.

“I was extremely pleased to see that the money was coming back,” the player said. “I didn’t know during the spring training, going to the extended spring training, that I wasn’t getting a salary, so it was kind of a relief to see it. Especially if I have an apartment I paid for. It happened on a direct deposit overnight. It happened very easily, quickly and then I got also some things pay off.

The four players said they hoped the clubs would change their practices and ensure that players could move on during the spring training session.

“The only thing that puts me in the game right now is hunting for my dream,” said one of the players. “Sometimes I wake up and think, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ Am I right? ‘”

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