By Sam Levine
Amidst a slew of coronavirus-induced sports postponements and cancellations, fans braced for another blow on June 30 when Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that the 2020 Minor League Baseball (MiLB) season would be canceled. The decision came just about a week after the MLB announced that they would move forward with a shortened 2020 season, despite initial uncertainty as owners and players battled growing animosity over salary negotiations. MiLB, initially slated to start in April, did not have the same fate, and we’ll have to wait until 2021 to see every team’s exciting new prospects and other minor leaguers take the field.
While Major League teams can hope to generate money via television revenue supported by fans long awaiting the return of baseball since coronavirus cut spring training short in March, most minor league teams don’t have the luxury of streaming or television deals. Almost all of their revenue comes from ticket sales, food at the ballpark, and other in-stadium purchases — all of which would not be possible if the MiLB were to have a season without fans in attendance.
This cancellation affects more than 200 teams across the country, meaning more than 5,000 players in the minor leagues will be out of work for the foreseeable future.
“I wish I could say it was a surprise, but I feel like we all kind of knew for a while,” former Stanford Cardinal pitcher Jack Little ’19 said. Little, the Cardinal all-time saves leader, was taken in the 5th round of the 2019 draft and is currently in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor league organization.
The Dodgers, like all other MLB teams, have committed to paying Little and his fellow minor leaguers a stipend of $400 per week through the end of July, and most teams have extended that through the end of August, when the season would have regularly ended. That’s extremely important for players, as many may need to find other jobs to stay financially stable.
“It’s a hard deal obviously to find a job right now because of everything being shut down, so it’s great that the Royals and a bunch of other organizations are pitching in to help out,” said Kris Bubic ’18, former Cardinal and pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization. Bubic was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft, and has since been named the Royals’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2019.
In normal seasons, MiLB players already get paid a staggeringly low amount of money, ranging from only $400 to $700 a week. Not only that, they have to continue to train in the offseason on their own dime. This year’s stipend will hopefully allow players to continue to maintain their abilities despite the lack of games or practices.
Under the new format of the MLB season, teams will have expanded 60-man rosters to work with for the 2020 major league season. Anyone on this roster will need to be ready at a moment’s notice to be called up to the big leagues.
“I’m just a guy who has to stay ready and be ready for any opportunity that comes up, whether that’s at the end of this month, the end of August,” said Bubic, who’s on the Royals 60-man roster at Kauffman Stadium right now. “I have to continue to be prepared and continue to get my work in, and if something comes up, to be ready for that opportunity.”
For Little, it’s the same idea, even though he isn’t a part of the Dodgers’ 60-man squad in L.A.
“I’m doing what I can to stay in shape and stay ready. There’s no season but in the event we do get called back to go to some summer camp or fall instructional league, I want to be ready for that,” he said.
This article has been corrected to reflect that Jack Little was drafted in the 2019 MLB draft, not 2018. The Daily regrets this error.
Contact Sam Levine at samplevine ‘at’ gmail.com.