Help finally arrives for MiLB players

One of the most important bit of news in minor league baseball history came out Sunday afternoon, with a wonderful announcement that was long, long overdue.

Starting next season, Major League Baseball will provide housing for minor leaguers in every city. The players no longer will have to pay for their housing throughout the season, and the hope/goal is that available housing will be located already, so that players don’t have to do that, either.

This is massive for the industry.

Because since forever, minor league players have had to find their own housing while constantly being shuffled from city to city, all of which has created a major burden. They’ve also had to pay for all of it, while making below minimum wage in most cases.

“It’s huge. Huge,” said John Prosperi, a longtime Altoona Curve Booster Club member who spent many years helping players find housing once they arrived in town.

“It’s tremendous for the players to have this as another benefit … to not have this burden of where am I going to live hanging over their heads.”

There are no formal plans in place for how to do all of this yet, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Sunday. Details and logistics will have to be worked out in the coming months so that everyone is on the same page when the season rolls around in the spring.

I can say, without hesitation, that the housing situation in minor league baseball has long been one of the industry’s biggest concerns among players. I’ve heard from dozens of Curve players over the years who have talked about how finding housing in a minor league city is something they always worry about, plus how to pay for it.

And players in Altoona have been relatively fortunate, compared to some other places.

Prosperi said it often was really tough finding housing for Curve players during the franchise’s early years, but as time went on, things got a lot easier.

However, once they got called up to Triple-A Indianapolis, bigger problems arose. Curve players told Prosperi that prices for apartments in Indy were extremely high.

Major League Baseball has now taken over the minor leagues, and that came with a heavy cost. The first thing MLB did was slash 40 franchises to get the number down to 120, thereby eliminating hundreds of jobs for minor league players.

Major League Baseball did, however, give minor leaguers a 25 percent pay raise. And now that it also will be paying for their housing, that essentially is another big pay raise.

It will save Curve players about $300-500 per month, Prosperi said.

Curve general manager Nate Bowen said it’s still way too early in the process to know exactly how all the logistics will be handled with these new housing rules.

All of this news just broke Sunday, so it could take some time and a lot of coordination between MLB and minor league franchises.

What would make the most sense is for minor league clubs to be in charge of locating complexes in their cities and working out deals so that players can stay there. Then the big league club will get the bill.

If it goes that way, the players wouldn’t have to worry about locating or paying for a place to live. It all would be taken care of for them.

If players don’t want to stay in the designated locations for whatever reason — perhaps married players or those with children would want to make their own arrangements — then logic would say that they could get a stipend to cover their housing expense.

This is only supposed to cost each major league team about $1 million per year to house all of their minor leaguers. That is a very small amount for the MLB clubs, who waste far, far more than that in dead salaries alone when they have to release ineffective players.

It’s hard to believe it’s taken this long to finally get to a point where minor leaguers could get help with all of this. But at least it’s finally happening now, and it’s a blessing for the sport.

Cory Giger has been the Altoona Curve beat writer for the Mirror since 1999. He can be reached at cgsports12@aol.com.


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