The Path to the Majors

All over the United States, kids dream of having the chance to play professional baseball. To make millions playing a game that you love for the Yankees or the Dodgers; it sounds like an opportunity of a lifetime. But what about playing for the Frisco RoughRiders or the Tucson Padres? These are minor league baseball teams; two of hundreds scattered throughout the country. MiLB (Minor League Baseball) is the path to the major leagues, the first step of a professional baseball career. After being drafted, or signed, players progress through the Minor League Baseball ranks in order to earn themselves a spot on their team's Major League Baseball affiliate.

Major League teams love Minor League Baseball. Clubs can call up players from their system of Minor League teams or they can send a player down to the MiLB to allow them more playing time. It sounds like a perfect system, ensuring that the highest quality players make their way on to Major League rosters with as much experience as possible.

So then, where is the problem?

$12,900

That is the average annual salary for a Minor League baseball player, with the lowest recorded salary hovering somewhere around $7,500. Many make under minimum wage, just to have the opportunity to make a MLB roster. However, is the trade off worth it? Is a tiny salary, combined with continuous road trips and long hours worth the minuscule chance at making the "big leagues"? What if there didn't have to be a trade off?

Enter the MiLBPA, a Minor League Baseball Players Association yet to be created, that functions like its Major League counterpart, the MLBPA. Per executive director of the MLBPA, Tony Clark, "For nearly 50 years, the Major League Baseball Players Association has been protecting and advancing the interests of big-league players. It is considered among the strongest unions in the United States because generations of players dating back to the early '60s have taken an active interest in their livelihoods and the game that they love. Through their union, players have worked together to improve nearly every facet of their working lives as well as to ensure the game's integrity and popularity."

It is clear why unions had become a necessity in sports: in the past, money hungry owners would manipulate their players, often paying them far less than a fair rate. But what about Minor League Baseball? How are Minor League players protected from monetary exploitation? The short answer is, they aren't. MiLB, while technically a separate entity from MLB, has no commissioner and they have no Players Association. There is no just compensation and for the most part, Major League Baseball has turned its back on the most important part of the Minor League system: the players themselves. More and more unrest is being generated by MiLB players, in fact more than a thousand players are involved in a suit against MLB, citing unlawfully low wages.

Will the MiLBPA ever be established? Will a fair, higher minimum salary be guaranteed? With just a few changes, the entire Minor League Baseball system could be rejuvenated, allowing for a higher quality of life for its players.

 

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