Minor League Baseball is very near and dear to my heart. For five summers, I had the pleasure of calling a MiLB ballpark my workplace. My camera and I still go to as many games as possible. How sad, then, that the players I’m surrounded by are making very little money – and many of the guys at the levels below us are actually below the poverty line!
Maybe someday, their living conditions will be different. In the meantime, I just want to let all baseball fans know that no, not all ballplayers are filthy rich. For a crash course in some of the salary figures and living conditions, check out this video – full transcripts of three of the interviews are below. Or check out this piece I wrote for a journalism class.
Me: When you wake up in the morning, you’re in a mansion on a mattress of gold, right?
David Lough: Absolutely not.
Me: What’s it like in real life, as a minor leaguer?
Lough: I think, obviously, the more you work your way up through the system, the more money you make. But, first starting out in rookie ball and A-ball and stuff like that, it’s really tough. You have to find a place to live. If you don’t have a host family, it can get really tough finding your own place. Things aren’t cheap these days, and when you get the bare minimum salary per month, it can really be hard on a player. Especially if you just got drafted and you’re not a high-round draft pick. It really is kind of like a grind, just to get by.
I try to live as cheap as I can, and try to save up as much money as you possibly can, and spend it on things that you need to spend it on. You pretty much come here to eat, sleep and play baseball. The offseason is the offseason, and you can get a job and make money on top of it.
I used to work at a pizza shop. My neighbor owns a pizza shop, so I’d go down there and I’d help them out a little bit. I didn’t really ask for much money; I just wanted something to do besides work out and stuff. So I took on making pizzas, and I had a great time doing it.
Being an athlete, you want to eat the right kind of food, especially on the road. At home, you have spreads and stuff like that. But the healthier you eat, the more expensive it is; that’s how I look at it. When I go on the road, I try to look for things healthy, but I’m going to have to pay a little more out of my pocket just to afford it. So that can be trouble; I can’t go to McDonald’s and go off the dollar menu every day. It’s just part of me. I just wouldn’t be able to do it. So, you know, that can be expensive at times. When I’m at home and I have my own place, I try to go and get groceries, go to Walmart or something, and just try to pick up the bare minimum of things that I would need just to get by.
[The pre-game spread is] just a little spread: Turkey, peanut butter and jelly, soup, fruits, stuff like that. After the games, you get a nice spread, which has been nice here [in Omaha] for us. Double-A was nice too. I think it just all depends on the clubbie – the clubhouse manager – what he wants to provide for you, and what the dues are going to be. It kind of all depends on that.
In 2006, I was playing in a little town called Adelanto, California. We rented a house with five or six guys. Needless to say, there wasn’t really five or six bedrooms. So I ended up splitting the master bedroom with two other guys. Two beds. My bedroom was actually a mattress in the walk-in closet. It came furnished with an incredible view – my sliding glass door opened right into the bathroom. That was pretty good arrangements. Needless to say, over the last few years, I have bunked up in any number of different places.
Something that would surprise the average fan:
I would like to say something cool, like we have some sort of self-sufficient organic farm outside the outfield wall that we contribute compost to every night, and grow our own clubhouse spread, but that’s not really the case. It’s just the little things that I think people don’t really appreciate or realize what happens. Like, every 4th day, we’re waking up at 3:00 in the morning. This morning, we had a 3:30 wake-up call to catch a bus, and catch a plane. It’s just not as glamorous as everyone thinks it might be, but it’s a good time nonetheless.
Todd [the Omaha home clubbie, to this day] does a great job. A lot of us don’t really have a lot of money, so we kind of depend on him as our father/mother/wives to support us. A lot of times, I won’t eat anything before I come to the field, and I’ll end up eating three meals here. It gets a little expensive paying clubhouse dues, but it’s well worth it in the long run because [the clubhouse attendant is] really taking care of all of my needs. It’s worth it, in my view.
One story/experience that sums up the minor league experience:
I’m sure there is probably any number of stories that I could use, but I probably shouldn’t tell any of those. For me personally, it’s just whenever anybody asks me my address. I’m like a nomad – I haven’t had an address for, like, 6 years. I still use my parents’ address, but I haven’t lived there for over five and a half years. So they continue to ship me my mail once a month for the last six years, even though I haven’t lived in Florida since then. It kind of gets a little depressing; I’d like a little place to call ‘home.’ But such is life, I guess.
When you’re in rookie ball and you first sign, the guys that are senior signees, they’ll get like a thousand-dollar signing bonus. When you’re in rookie ball, you make like $850 a month, and they take out your housing already, so you’ll probably clear like 250 bucks every two weeks. When I was in short-season, I think at one point we had five guys in a 2-bedroom apartment. At another point, when I was in High-A, we had seven guys in a 3-bedroom house at one time. I don’t know if it’s that ridiculous, but it’s definitely a little different – especially in rookie ball when you clear like 250 every two weeks, it’s pretty bad, especially if you don’t get a signing bonus.
That’s not even counting clubhouse dues or anything like that. The thing about rookie ball is, they don’t really give you before[-game] or after[-game] spreads. They give you, like, peanut butter and jelly only, and then you have to go eat by yourself afterwards. So you don’t get to really have food before or afterwards.
How do they expect you go get by?
I don’t know. They just expect you play baseball. The thing is, that minor league contract that they want everybody to sign. It’s the same six-year contract for everybody, so therefore people don’t really understand it. It’s just like, “here it is; sign the contract.” They don’t realize how terrible the contract really is.
Someone off-camera: You can’t say that!
Parraz: [to the person off-camera] The minor league deal, the six-year deal? It’s terrible, I’ll tell you that right now.