When you hear about baseball players and salary, you probably think of massive contracts with large paydays. Here in New York, we’ve certainly seen more than our fair share of those deals from the Yankees and Mets.
However, there are a group of professional baseball players that often get lost in the conversation, and those are minor leaguers.
While still professionals, most minor league players never play Major League Baseball. They spend their careers riding buses around the country, living out of hotels and getting paid a tiny fraction of a major league salary. NPR interviewed a former player recently who quit baseball at age 25 because, like most minor leaguers, he made below the minimum wage.
In the minors, a player can make as little as $1,100 a month during the season. Given the time spent playing in games, traveling and practicing, most players make well below minimum wage. This led a group of players to file a lawsuit.
Now in its third year, the lawsuit has gained little traction, but many players continue to push for higher pay.
The issue is hardly simple. Although the average minor league player makes around $7,500 per year, well below the minimum wage for the number of hours they spend training and playing, Major League Baseball claims that these players are seasonal, short-term apprentices not covered by federal wage and hour laws. By contrast, the current major league minimum salary is $535,000, or more than $44,000 per month.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that some minor leaguers receive multi-million dollar signing bonuses when they are drafted, making their minor league pay obsolete. However, most minor leaguers get a small signing bonus, if they get one at all, and only a fraction of the thousands of minor league players at a given time make it to majors.
For these players, the lawsuit offers an opportunity to continue playing baseball while earning a living wage.