Major League Baseball teams next season will begin putting up some of their minor leaguers.
MLB said in a statement this week that team owners “agreed to begin providing housing to certain minor league players,” according to the Associated Press.
The statement said that the details of the policy had yet to be finalized and did not specify what players would be eligible for housing.
Other sources told ESPN that MLB would require teams to provide housing via stipends, paying rent directly, or otherwise arranging the housing themselves.
The changes are part of a wider restructuring of the MLB’s minor league system, prompted in part by pressure from advocacy groups and players.
After being signed by a team, players typically have to work their way through the three minor league tiers to get onto Major League rosters. Most never make it, and earn poverty wages while trying.
The system has even smaller regional leagues as well. In all, there are 209 teams across 19 leagues, according to the MLB.
The level of housing assistance currently offered to players varies by ball club. The Houston Astros, for example, began providing furnished apartments to all its players this season. But most teams only put players up on road trips, leaving them on their own to find housing near their home ballparks for seasons that run for three to six months — putting traditional 12-month leases out of reach.
Some resort to living in their cars or roach-infested dives.
For low earners in the U.S., finding a place to live is about as hard as it has ever been. Home prices have soared during the pandemic, and the increases have spilled over into the rental market. Meanwhile, localities continue to limit or forbid development of affordable housing, preferring to keep single-family zoning.
The major leagues did raise the minimum salaries for all minor league players last year, although the pay is still low. Arduous travel requirements were also eased.
Players at the highest minor league level, AAA, must be paid a minimum of just $700 per week of play. Players in the lowest tier, Single-A, can be paid as little as $500 per week of play.
That figures out to just $10,500 for a Single-A player over the course of a five-month season, below the $12,880 federal poverty line.
Players in the Mets and Phillies organizations last month wore teal wristbands for the last weekend of the season as a protest over the pay structure.
The Advocates for Minor Leaguers organization was involved with the protest and has in the past handed out pamphlets to fans to draw attention to the issue.
[AP] — Dennis Lynch