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MLB coronavirus shut down hurts stadium workers & minor leaguers most

These are the folks who can least afford to miss games.

Boston Red Sox v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

We are without baseball for a while, which is bad for the players who want to play, and bad for those of us who desperately want to watch. But it’s especially bad for two groups in and around the game — minor league players, and stadium workers.

With spring training now officially over, team facilities are basically only there for players who need to rehab their injuries, or for players to workout, throw, or hit the cages. But with social distancing being preached across the country, there won’t be any formal workouts and Major League Baseball is limiting the number of team staff that can work with players at any one time.

But as Saturday’s memo from MLB to clubs shows, the facilities are basically only available to players on the 40-man roster.

“All non-roster players should return to their offseason residences to the extent practical,” the memo instructed. “If it is not feasible for a non-roster player to return home, which may be the case for some international players who reside in high-risk areas in the United States, clubs should work with the player to provide suitable accommodations.”

There is also the matter of travel restrictions for players who reside in foreign countries. This has already come up.

But the bigger issue with minor leaguers has to do with pay, or lack thereof. It’s easier for major leaguers to handle a disruption, especially with an average salary of $4 million and a minimum salary of $563,500. But for minor leaguers, the pay is paltry to begin with.

Minimum minor league salaries are set to raise in 2021, but for this year here are the numbers for each level, per the Associated Press:

  • Rookie, short-season, and Class-A: $290 per week
  • Double-A: $350 per week
  • Triple-A: $502 per week

Minor leaguers don’t get paid during spring training, and they aren’t paid during the offseason. During the hiatus, they aren’t getting paid.

Minor league players don’t have a union like those on a 40-man roster, which makes a huge difference in how they are treated. Marc Normandin wrote more about this over the weekend.

Stadium workers do have a union, however, and they are appealing to local sports teams to take care of those who won’t have games to cover.

“The prospect of canceled games and games being played solely for television audiences will have enormous consequences for service workers,” a letter from Unite Here Local 11 to various sports teams in southern California read. “Large scale layoffs could mean that thousands of workers do not have the income they need to pay rent or a mortgage to keep their families housed and that they lose access individual and family healthcare in the midst a public health crisis.”

Unite Here Local 11 represents more than 5,600 workers at sporting venues in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. That letter was sent to the Angels, Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, Sparks, Kings, Galaxy, and LAFC on Thursday. To date the only response came from the tenants of the Staples Center, who established a fund to support all hourly event staff.

It’s worth noting that the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings have already had games affected by the coronavirus shutdown. The Angels weren’t scheduled to host a game in Anaheim until March 22, with the Freeway Series concluding at Dodger Stadium March 23-24.

To date there has been no response from the Angels nor Dodgers regarding stadium workers affected by missed games. So far only two MLB teams have committed to assist stadium workers — the Tigers and Blue Jays.

Officially, MLB delayed opening day by at least two weeks, but most folks in and around the game don’t expect baseball to back before May at the earliest, and new guidelines by the CDC recommending no mass gatherings through mid-May. Through the end of April, the Angels would have hosted 13 games (including the Freeway Series), and the Dodgers would have hosted 19 games.