Farm Hands Starve in MiLB as MLB Harvests a $9.5 Billion Cash Crop

Kent Babb of the Washington Post recently submitted a story that is all too familiar to me. regarding the low salaries that MiLB players make and the difficulties player have making a quality of life based on those saleries. You can read Philly.com’s repost HERE.

I’ve been around these kids for years. It’s why Baseball Ross and I have opened our home to three different players over the years, rent-free. It’s so hard to know that these kids that everyone seems to want a piece of are living in such poor conditions and are under so much financial strain.

One year, we knew of SIX guys living in a one bedroom, one bathroom garage apartment. To live in such cramped conditions, they were paying $280 per guy, per month.  Something that gets left out is that yes, when moving from low-A Lakewood to Clearwater the  increase in wage is $200/month. The biggest difference is that in Clearwater, the players are responsible for their own housing while in Lakewood (and Williamsport) the players live with host families. So in the example above, they gain $200, take out the $280 for rent and they are actually losing $80/month with their “promotion”.

We went to buy a mattress and got to talking to the salesman. The store is across the street from the stadium. He told us that every spring they get a ton of players looking to buy the absolute cheapest mattresses, sometimes one that isn’t even long enough for them to stretch out on without their feet hanging off. He told us, “These kids are professional athletes and they are sleeping on bad mattresses, how can they perform at their best?”

It’s a difficult situation. Former Phillies minor league pitcher, Eric Pettis wrote a book “Just a Minor Perspective” (available for Amazon Kindle-you can find it by clicking HERE) that outlined his experiences in the minor league. Two of his anecdotes have always stuck with me:

  1. How on the long bus trips, there were not enough berths on the bus for everyone to be able to sleep in a “bed” so some had to sleep in the seats or even on the floor.
  2. How before a game there was only peanut butter, jelly and bananas available in the club house. If you had to stay on the field to work with a coach, it might be all gone by the time you got into the locker room and you’d have to play on an empty stomach.

The pregame "spread" in Williamsport a few years ago. (Photo courtesy of Eric Pettis)

The pregame “spread” in Williamsport a few years ago. (Photo courtesy of Eric Pettis)

On the plus side, according to Matt Gelb of Philly.com, this year, the Phillies have taken a step to make sure young developing athletes get the nutrition they need. This year, they will spend $1 million to provide healthy meals for the minor league players and staff. You can read the article HERE.

It’s important to remember that players do not just show up an hour before game time. For a starting pitcher on the days they do not start, they need to report by 2 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game. If the player is Spanish speaking, they will often need to report by 1 p.m. for their mandatory English class.  By the time the game ends at may be 9:30-10:00, they still need to shower and change clothes so many nights, they do not get to leave until after 11:00. It makes for long days. Travel days, sometimes they need to be on the bus by 8 or 9 in the morning and are only given $20 for meal money. Then there’s hours of travel followed by a game and not leaving the stadium until much later.

It’s a hard life. Norwich High School in Norwich, New York made the following document available on their website that outlines the odds for a high school  baseball player to make the majors:

Baseball
–High school senior players who go on to play NCAA men`s baseball: Less than three in 50, or 5.6 percent

— NCAA senior players drafted by a Major League Baseball (MLB) team: Less than eleven in 100, or 10.5 percent.

— High school senior players eventually drafted by an MLB team: About one in 200, or 0.5 percent. Drafted baseball players almost always go to a minor league team. These teams abound; there are over 150 of them, compared to 30 in the majors. The big leagues have 750 players, yet the 2004 draft alone took 1,500. Hence some estimate that only one in 33 minor leaguers ever makes it to the pros. If that’s correct, the chance of a high school player making the big leagues is one in 6,600, or 0.015 percent. That’s roughly the chance of a thief guessing your PIN number on the first try.

This article doesn’t even address the long odds of a Latin player to make it. It’s a hard, hard life, one in which few see the ultimate reward of a MLB contract. For many it’s more than a dream, it’s a way out of poverty, a way to not only feed themselves but also their family.

Major League Baseball needs to take a hard look at itself. Yes, they are a business but it would be like a farmer working horses in the fields all day and feeding them barely enough oats to survive. Wouldn’t they harvest a richer crop if their horses, or in this case, players were working in optimum conditions? Fair pay is just the first step.

My Favorite Carlos Ruiz Story

For the most part, we all have the collective memories of Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz, running into the arms of Brad Lidge after winning the World Series in 2008, catching Roy Halladay’s  perfect game and the no hitter in the World Series, it’s our collective memory. I feel lucky that I have something a little different.

I’ve been going to Spring Training since 2007, so I’ve tried to get his autograph many times. Until the last few years, he didn’t sign a lot at Spring Training. He was what us autograph hounds call  a “hard get” or a hard to get autograph. It always seemed like when I did catch him signing, I’d be the one next to the guy who got the last autograph before Ruiz stopped signing. It was frustrating. I’d spent years trying and had nothing to show for it.

I had a good number of the 2008 World Series team and I was just about at the end of my rope. Then, two years ago, Ruiz was making a rehab appearance after his Adderall suspension. Baseball Ross and I went over to Steinbrenner Field where the Threshers were playing the Tampa Yankees. Being familiar with how the stadium was set up, I went to stand on the third base side to the left of the dugout. Pitchers and catchers usually exit the dugout, walk down the third base side and then down to the visitors’ bullpen that is in the corner by left field. I went down to the front row, just next to that side of the dugout and waited before the game. I was the only one there.

On the other side of the dugout was a large group of fans, pens in hand, waiting. when he exited the locker room and entered the dugout they started screaming, “Chooch! Chooch!” They started jostling and pushing for position. I stayed quiet and alone on the third base line. He looked at the cacophony and quietly turned away and headed for the bullpen.

As he approached me I quietly said, “Excuse me, Mr. Ruiz, would you please sign my ball?” He looked at me and gave that smile and signed for me. I said, “Thank you.” and he replied, “You’re welcome.” With a nod of his head he continued on his was as the gaggle of autograph groupies were loudly running from the other side of the dug out, “Chooching” the entire way.

Ruiz just gave me one last smile as he walked away. It always made me like the guy, I felt like I was just a little bit special. I guess he appreciated my politeness and was turned off by the craziness on the other end.

Carlos Ruiz ball next to my signed Roy Halladay’s signed glove

Ruiz was also the subject of my favorite ballpark giveaway, the “Chooching Owl”. It’s a “hoot”!

http://playola.co/p/38cdff

Enough is Enough! More Netting is Needed at Baseball Stadiums! Freddie Galvis is Right!

This is a subject that is a personal one for me and I’ll explain why later.

Last night, Freddie Galvis hit a fly ball that zoomed into the stands and hit a young girl in the face. She was injured and taken to Children’s Hospital. We had, ironically, just turned on the game when they were showing her being carried out of the stands. The accident obviously left Freddie shaken. He was quoted by Matt Breen’s article (Read the entire article HERE) as saying:

“What if I broke all her teeth. What if I broke her nose. If I hit her in one eye and she loses that. What are they going to do? They’re going to forget in three days,” Galvis said. “It’s going to be a big deal for two, three days. Everybody in TV, media, whatever. But after three days what’s going to happen? They’re going to forget. But that family won’t forget that. Do you think the little baby will forget that? It’s true life. It’s something you have to put before everything. Safety first. Safety.”

He’s right on so many levels. As I stated earlier, I have personal experience in this area. In 1997, I was at a Hershey Bears hockey game and was hit by a puck. It just wasn’t a gentle flip over the boards, it was a line drive. You ask if I was paying attention, I was. Much like a line drive this puck had been a wrap around shot, as it flew along the glass, it picked up speed as if it was the end skater in a line of skaters playing “crack the whip”.

I heard it coming. I had worked for the Bears for two years previously, (so I KNOW what a puck like that sounds like) and was on a date with Ross at the time. As I turned to see which way to move to get out of the way, I saw it leave where the glass went from high to low and whip into the crowd. It was so fast I had no chance to move and it hit me right between the eyes. I remember every thing distinctly-the split second I had to realize the puck was coming for me and the other infinitesimal amount of time to realize there was no way to move fast enough to get out of the way. I remember “pop” as my skull fractured. For just a fraction of a second, I worried that Ross had also been hit and as I turned to look at him, my vision was gone. I didn’t lose my sight, there was that much blood gushing down my face that I couldn’t see. I didn’t see anything until a few minutes later when the EMTs were holding gauze on the gaping wound and wiped the blood from my eyes.

It cost (in 1997) $500 to go the four miles to the Hershey Medical Center by ambulance. At the hospital they determined my injuries to be:

  • concussion
  • skull fracture
  • the front bone of my forehead had been pushed 1mm into my sinus cavity
  • the cut-required 15 stitches (5 interior, 10 exterior) for most of which I didn’t have any anesthetic.

The doctor explained that had it hit me almost anywhere else along my eye, I would have likely lost vision and had it hit the temple, well let’s just say there’d be no Baseball Betsy after that. Luckily I recovered, but I do have a rather impressive scar for my permanent souvenir.

5 years later, in the spring of 2002, 13 year old Brittanie Cecil was hit in the head at a Columbus Blue Jackets game and she passed away from her injuries two days later. It was the first fan death at an NHL game. By the next fall, the NHL had acted and required all venues to increase the height of the glass and to have the netting we see today. They didn’t wait. They acted.

But no one has ever died from a foul ball you say? Yes, someone has been killed by a foul ball at a Major League Baseball game! May 16, 1970, at Dodgers Stadium, Manny Mota hit a foul into the stands that hit 14 year old Alan Fish. Fish died four days later in an area hospital of “an inoperable head injury.” MLB did not change a thing.

This year (over 45 years later) they did encourage not require teams to increase the netting and many did, but only THREE of the THIRTY teams have netting that extends over the dugouts. Here in Clearwater, they also extended the netting to the inside end of the dugout approximately an additional 10 feet but here the netting does not go high enough. I’ve been hit/almost hit several times as well has Ross. Our seats are in the 5th row behind home. We do not get direct shots, in our case, if the foul is high enough it will soar over the top cross bar and then hit the suite level and ricochet into the crowd FROM BEHIND. Ross and I are pretty good at dodging them but I have seen many casual fans get hit in the back or back of the head because they are lulled into a false sense of security of sitting “behind the net”.

Let me know if I'm going to get one in the back of the head, ok?

Let me know if I’m going to get one in the back of the head, ok?

Fans deserve to be able to to expect safety when they attend an event. They expect professional organizations to look out for them. Instead they are told (as I was at the hockey games) that “patrons are warned of potential injury from objects leaving the playing surface.” They don’t warn of possible death and disfigurement.

Last year, Tonya Carpenter sustained life threatening injuries after a broken bat flew into the stands at Fenway Park in Boston. In the time I’ve been a season ticket holder here in Clearwater, I’ve seen several minor injuries and sadly, one elderly lady who was sitting over the first base dugout LOST AN EYE after being hit by a foul ball. But yet, even after the this years’ “extension” she wouldn’t have been safe.

In 2014, Bloomberg.com carried an article where their analysis is that 1,750 fans are injured EVERY YEAR at MLB games! You can read their article that also chronicles critical injuries to a 7 year old boy at a Cubs game HERE.

I’m hoping that Freddie Galvis can convince at least the Phillies, if not all of MLB, that WE NEED PROTECTION NOW! Not just for fans, but for players. How do you think Manny Mota feels knowing he killed a child? Freddie Galvis is right and MLB has to listen. How many more people have to be injured or die? I’m sure Alan Fish, who would have been 60 this year, would have asked for more netting, but he can’t.

 

 

Rank the Phillies Prospects-A Survey by Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle

Again this year, I was privileged to be asked by Reading Eagle Sports Writer Mike Drago to be part of the “Rank the Phillies Prospects” survey. He asked us to “rank the top players in the Phillies organization from No. 1 to No. 25, based on their present value to the organization and their major league ceiling/potential. (A weighted ballot will be used, with first-place votes earning 25 points, second place 24 points, etc.)”

This is one of my favorite things to take part in as it’s so cool to be included with so many other reporters and bloggers whose work I enjoy reading.

So I talked through my list with Baseball Ross and we realized that we have seen so many of the prospects as they have progressed, save for a few that were acquired via trades or the draft.  So here’s “our” list:

Jake Thompson

Jake Thompson

1. Jake Thompson

Dylan Cozens

Dylan Cozens

2. Dylan Cozens

Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins

3. Rhys Hoskins

Jorge Alfaro

Jorge Alfaro

4. Jorge Alfaro

JP Crawford

JP Crawford

5. J P Crawford

Roman Quinn

Roman Quinn

6. Roman Quinn

Mickey Moniak

Mickey Moniak

7. Mickey Moniak

Franklin Kilome

Franklin Kilome

8. Franklyn Kilome

Elniery Garcia

Elniery Garcia

9. Elniery Garcia

Nick Williams

Nick Williams

10. Nick Williams

Jose Taveras

Jose Taveras

11. Jose Taveras

Scott Kingery

Scott Kingery

12. Scott Kingery

Ben Lively

Ben Lively

13. Ben Lively

Tyler Viza

Tyler Viza

14. Tyler Viza

Jose Pujols

Jose Pujols

15. Jose Pujols

Cornelius Randolph

Cornelius Randolph

16. Cornelius Randolph

Jhailyn Ortiz

Jhailyn Ortiz

17. Jhailyn Ortiz

Andrew Pullin

Andrew Pullin

18. Andrew Pullin

Andrew Knapp

Andrew Knapp

19. Andrew Knapp

Jiandido Tromp

Jiandido Tromp

20. Jiandido Tromp

Alberto Tirado

Alberto Tirado

21. Alberto Tirado

Jimmy Cordero

Jimmy Cordero

22. Jimmy Cordero

23. Sixto Sanchez
24. Nick Fanti

Adonis Medina

Adonis Medina

25. Adonis Medina

As you can see, I have been able to take pictures of all but two, and I have seen all 25 but sadly the two I missed were on days where I didn’t have my camera with me or the battery was dead by the end of the day during spring training. So Ross and I really put a lot of thought into our list.

The list from Drago as complied by all my fellow reporters and bloggers:

Reading Eagle Phillies minor league prospect ranks
(with position, current club)
1. J.P. Crawford, SS, Lehigh Valley
2. Jorge Alfaro, C, Reading
3. Nick Williams, OF, Lehigh Valley
4. Jake Thompson, P, Philadelphia
5. Mickey Moniak, OF, Gulf Coast
6. Dylan Cozens, OF, Reading
7. Roman Quinn, OF, Reading
8. Cornelius Randolph, OF, Lakewood
9. Franklyn Kilome, P, Lakewood
10. Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Reading

11. Scott Kingery, 2B, Reading
12. Andrew Knapp, C, Lehigh Valley
13. Adonis Medina, P, Williamsport
14. Nick Pivetta, P, Lehigh Valley
15. Jhailyn Ortiz, OF, Gulf Coast
16. Ricardo Pinto, P, Reading
17. Elniery Garcia, P, Clearwater
18. Ben Lively, P, Lehigh Valley
19. Kevin Gowdy, P, Gulf Coast
20. Carlos Tocci, OF, Clearwater

Others receiving multiple votes( in order of vote total):
Mark Appel, P, Lehigh Valley
Sixto Sanchez, P, Gulf Coast
Jimmy Cordeo, P, Reading
Cole Stobbe, SS, Gulf Coast
Jose Pujols, OF, Lakewood
Alberto Tirado, P, Lakewood
Alec Asher, P, Lehigh Valley
Thomas Eshelman, P, Reading
Drew Anderson, P, Clearwater
Andrew Pullin, OF, Reading
Cole Irvin, P, Williamsport
Arquimedes Gamboa, Williamsport
JoJo Romero, P, Williamsport
Malquin Canelo, SS, Clearwater
Tyler Viza, P, Reading

It’s enlightening to see where all they players fall per the weighted vote. Of the list, Ross and I could see almost any of them on the list though may be in a different position (as was evidenced by our differences on our list). I will find it interesting to see how this pans out in the future.

Batter up! Hear that Call! The All American Professional Baseball League Gets a New Home

The Logo of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (Photo courtesy of the AAGPBL)

The Logo of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (Photo courtesy of the AAGPBL)

One of my favorite things about baseball is a part that is often forgotten. The All American Girls Professional Baseball League. At a time when most women got married before they turned 20 and stayed home to raise the children, these women were part of a change that is still felt today.

World War II forced many women into the workforce, while “Rosie the Riveter” is often celebrated, the women who played professional baseball are often forgotten. Then came Penny Marshall and the movie, “A League of Their Own”. While it’s technically a “historical fiction” as many characters are composites, the spirit is there. If you want to read a great article that Time Magazine did on the players, you can read it HERE. (Be sure to click on the link to the photo essay about half way through the article.)

I can’t tell you how that movie changed my life. I had been raised with traditional values. I remember seeing the “Broad Street Bullies” Flyers of the early 70’s and telling my father that I wanted to play hockey to which he replied, “You are a girl, you will figure skate, that’s what girls do.” It took me more than 15 years to get my father to allow me to play on his non-contact hockey team and the ALOTO movie was a big part of that.

I have been rather obsessed with the AAGPBL since then, I’m working my way through THREE different books on the league. In many ways, Rosie the Riveter and the AAGPBL did for women what Jackie Robinson did for people of color.  I was lucky enough to meet several of the players in Reading, you can read the blog HERE.

On August 8, the Winnebago County Officials and the Park District (where Beyer Stadium of the Rockford Peaches was located) announced that the International Women’s Baseball Center would be moving the center from California to a location directly across the street from where Beyer Stadium once stood. The official announcement will be make at There will be training and educational facilities as well as a museum dedicated to girls’ and women’s baseball. You can read the new statement on the IWBC’s announcement on their site HERE.

I am beyond excited! In June, I very nearly drove the five hours from my aunt’s house to Rockford just to see the commemorative plaque at Beyer Stadium. The stadium was torn down in the early 1990’s and recently, the Friends of Beyer Stadium have worked hard to build a new baseball field on the site as well as dugouts and a beautiful fence. They are working hard to help future generations remember the importance of AAGPBL! You can read more and see many pictures of the hard work they have done on their Facebook page HERE.

I can promise you that when the new museum opens, I will be there! I have to, I mean where else can I see the Peaches’ bus?

 

Matt Imhoff Posts on Instagram The Details of the Freak Accident That Took His Eye.  

Last week I did two stories about the freak accident that happened after the game.

Today, Matt posted a long and detailed story about the damage caused to his face and that led to the removal of his right eye. 

You can read his post here: Matt Imhof’s Story

Matt Imhof (Photo Courtesy of Matt Imhof’s Instagram page)


As always my prayers are with him for a speedy recovery.

Moniak, Ortiz and Randolph, Three Top Prospects, One GCL Game

At the last minute, Baseball Ross and I wee able to change our schedule and attend today’s GCL game between the Phillies and Yankees.

We were rewarded by having a chance to see three of the Phillies top prospects: Mickey Moniak, Jhailyn Ortiz and Cornelius Randolph play.

I’ve included some pictures for you to enjoy:

Mickey Moniak

Mickey Moniak

Mickey Moniak

Mickey Moniak

Mickey Moniak

Jhailyn Ortiz

Jhailyn Ortiz

Cornelius Randolph

Cornelius Randolph

Cornelius Randolph


EDITED TO ADD: 

Jhailyn Ortiz hit a two-run double seen here:

Jhailyn Ortiz

Jhailyn Ortiz