After an increase in pressure from players and activists, Major League Baseball announced it will require teams to provide housing for players starting in 2022.
Although no formal plans have been outlined by the MLB so far, six team officials stated they are starting to prepare to help house players across each of their four minor league affiliates, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.
"This is a historic victory for minor league baseball players," Harry Marino, the executive director of Advocates of Minor Leaguers and a former minor league player with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles, said in an official statement. "When we started talking to players this season about the difficulties they face, finding and paying for in-season housing was at the top of almost every player's list. As a result, addressing that issue became our top priority."
It has been well documented throughout the past few months that minor league baseball players do not get paid well, thanks to the Advocates of Minor Leaguers. They broke a number of stories with help from anonymous sources, such as players in the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox organizations, who reported their teammates had apartment applications denied due to insufficient income.
Before the organization intervened with the Bowie Baysox, the Double-A affiliate of the Orioles, players were contemplating sleeping in their cars to save costs.
Michael Cruz of the Rocket City Trash Pandas — the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels — has been an open advocate for help.. After 7 months away from his newborn daughter, he has pleaded with the organization to follow through on a promise to address conditions. The Angels refused to comment on the topic.
"Help us, just help us. We need help," Cruz said in an interview with The Athletic. "I mean, you always have to sacrifice something in life, don’t get me wrong. But those sacrifices shouldn’t be sleeping on the floor, leaving your family behind."
Cruz has played six seasons in the MiLB, never making more than $15,000 each season. He participated in an extended spring training with the Angels and wasn’t paid at all.
Cruz gets a check for $950 every two weeks during the season with the Trash Pandas. Rent for his apartment is $395. At one point, he was forced to sleep in his car.
Although most of the minor leagues are populated in small towns with lower rents, such as the Trash Pandas in Madison, Alabama, the league also includes some of the most expensive cities in the nation. Some teams include the Brooklyn Cyclones, the High-A affiliate of the New York Mets, located on Coney Island in New York, and the San Jose Giants, the Low-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants located in San Jose, California.
Many minor league players have organized protests to spread the message of better treatment. On Saturday Sept. 18th, multiple players from the Jersey Shore BlueClaws and the Cyclones wore wristbands with the message #FairBall written. It was a collaborative effort that took place at the Maimonides Park in Brooklyn.
"Minor League baseball players have been severely underpaid and silenced for decades," players from both teams said in a statement for The Athletic. "Today, we are wearing #FairBall wristbands to show our solidarity with every fan and ally who is working to change that. We love the game of baseball, but it needs to evolve. It is time for every Minor Leaguer to be paid a living wage."
And it wasn’t just minor league players who wore the bands. Many players such as Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini, Cleveland Indians third baseman José Ramírez, Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen and Los Angeles Dodgers utility player Chris Taylor have all worn wristbands to show their support of better conditions for minor league players.
Housing takes up a majority share of a minor-league player's already constrained budget. This new policy, if it passes, will make a huge difference for players at the farm level. As for the organizations themselves? They have major incentives to provide a better quality of life for the players who will eventually form the foundation of the team at the highest level.