Minor league player stipends during the COVID-19 postponements started with just a handful of teams. MLB has now stepped in to ensure all minor league players will receive compensation, helping them get by at least until April 9.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has announced the season is delayed at least until mid-May. Many minor leaguers have returned to their respective homes, and many are unsure of income beyond the next three weeks if compensation isn’t extended. They fortunately have some breathing room for the time being—along with a handful of people looking out for them:
Minor leaguers are left wondering when their next actual paycheck will come. In the time being, their ability to find a way to collect a check comes with limitations, too. “With no idea of when they will be called back to camp, they can’t easily seek immediate work at home, and they can’t file for unemployment benefits while still under contract with their clubs.”
Michael Rivers of Minnesota launched the program Adopt a Minor Leaguer, a platform where everyday people can help financially limited players. Their Twitter page got started earlier this year, and has already supported 120 players in the form of care packages and donations.
The first step in their sponsor application process is to send their account a direct message and select a preferred team (or teams) to support. The Rockies have minor league affiliates across the country—New Mexico, Connecticut, California, North Carolina, Idaho and Colorado—covering a wide span of potential shipping labels from sponsors. Regardless of where a sponsor may live, there is good chance a minor leaguer lives within reasonable proximity.
Twitter character Eric Sim, a former Giants minor leaguer, launched a campaign where people can support minor leaguers by giving them Chipotle cards. It started with a tweet from Sim saying that minor leaguers don’t expect thousands of dollars, and “they appreciate the little things.” Now that several players have been locked out of training facilities, those little things are arguably more important than ever.
For anybody taking a young kid with them to a minor league ballpark once play resumes: give them a Chipotle card, send them down the foul line, and have them give it to a player. That kid may just have a new favorite player once they give it to somebody in uniform—and they could possibly receive a baseball in return, too.
We need baseball for lots of reasons. One of those reasons is seeing an elated kid at the ballpark with a baseball in their hand.
Major League Baseball agreeing to compensate minor leaguers for now brings serious relief for players like Colorado-raised Peter Bayer, a pitcher in the Athletics system and experienced driver for DoorDash.
Bayer attended Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora. Postponements from COVID-19 gave Bayer two reasonable options: either staying at his spring training home in Phoenix with all associated costs, or returning home to greater Denver, now covered in snow.
Continued training comes with uncharted restriction now that public gatherings are so limited. Training facilities and gyms across the country have limited accessibility, if not closed altogether. Fortunately for baseball players of all levels, the community has got creative. At-home training methods from trainers like Ben Brewster of Tread Athletics leave no excuse for players to get their work in.
Warmer weather plays better for training, but some players don’t have the means to reside in warmer climates during the shutdown. A city park in Phoenix is suddenly a prime destination to throw a baseball.
Tim Melville was an employee at arguably the best BBQ place in the country: Little Miss BBQ in Phoenix. They have temporarily closed due to COVID-19, meaning even Melville can’t get back to work like before—pitching and barbecuing.
When Little Miss BBQ decided to open a second location, Melville was reportedly willing to work for them for free just to help out. He went through a standard interview process and landed a job in October of 2018, helping out any way he could. “A lot of guys play golf in the afternoons in the offseason and I was just, like, tired of that.”
Little Miss BBQ placed second on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in 2018. They offer multiple kinds of meat and sides, and many are wiling to wait in an hour-plus line for it. Their staff is heralded by those in line as being highly personable and fun to be around. When camp at Salt River Fields reconvenes and Little Miss is back in action, Rockies fans will have good reason to joyously stand in that line.
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The Athletic published a roster projection for the Rockies on Friday; it doesn’t really fit today’s theme of ‘minor league’, but definitely deserves some attention:
“Bottom line: If Fuentes and Rodgers make the roster as infielders and pinch-hitters, there is only room for four pure outfielders. Short of a last-minute trade or a dramatic cut, the Rockies will have to pick two from a group of five overall: Fuentes, Rodgers, Owings, Daza and Hilliard.”
Without a delayed season, we’d be deeper into the Cactus League by now with more spring games to base these predictions off of. These predictions could turn into a ‘4.0’ assuming a spring training reboot in the coming weeks, and a ‘5.0’ just before the regular season. It’s still fun to just read an up-to-date article on names we wish we could hear like normal right now.
Brendan Rodgers now has extended time to heal from a labrum surgery last summer, and his increased availability could also alter some predictions down the road.