Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals open Florida State League season
PALM BEACH GARDENS – Minor league players dream of going to the show, but dreams can come at a cost.
While major league players now have a minimum wage of $700,000, thanks to the new contract that ended the 99-day lockout, minor leaguers, who are struggling to make ends meet on checks for pays at poverty level, might get a break.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Joseph Spero ruled that minor leaguers must be classified as “employed throughout the calendar year” under federal labor law. The move will allow minor leaguers to be paid to practice in Florida and Arizona.
Major League Baseball has also worked to raise wages in its collective farm systems over the past two years.
But the most significant support could be the league’s initiative to provide minor leaguers with housing options.
It’s this layout that most excited members of the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals as the 2022 season kicks off Friday.
“We don’t need to hire this year, which is great,” Hammerheads pitcher Chris Mokma said. “With housing (provided), it’s a thousand dollars at least, if not more, it’s in your pocket. Last year, with the salary we earned, almost everything went to rent, food, cost of living. Now, this year, it’s money in your pocket.
Also at Miller’s Ale House on Wednesday for a Florida State League press conference, Cardinals manager Gary Kendall expressed his appreciation for the steps the league is taking to help players in the farm system.
Now in his first season with the Cardinals organization after spending 14 years with the Orioles, Kendall says he coached Double-A and Triple-A players who made less than $2,000 a month after taxes, a number that he knows how to create increasing stress – especially those with families.
“When poverty comes in the door, love goes out the window,” Kendall said. “A lot of minor league relationships have failed.”
Logistics have also raised concerns, especially in a booming real estate market in South Florida. The median rent in Palm Beach County is $2,631.
“The minor leaguers report, say, March 6,” Cardinals assistant general manager and chief operating officer Andrew Seymour said. “So in peak tourist season, they are looking for seasonal accommodations — rentals, basically — for six months. Not many people have this available at this time of year. I wouldn’t call it a riddle, but it’s a real challenge.
Now that players won’t have to worry about where they can travel to during the season, Seymour feels relieved for the minor leaguers taking the field at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
“You want those conveniences in place rather than those hassles,” Seymour said. “You want to work on your craft because you’re doing work in front of an audience that watches and criticizes your day-to-day work.”
The impacts, both mental and economic, have already been felt by players, who can expect to focus on their jobs at the ballpark and potentially even start accumulating savings.
“This year, they’re paying everything,” Cardinals infielder Inohan Paniagua said through a translator. “It helps me a lot because I can save money to buy something for myself or to bring back to my family.” Paniagua comes from the Dominican Republic.
Appreciation of MLB player improvements was echoed by Hammerheads manager Angel Espada, who is entering his 14th year with the Marlins organization.
“I think anything that benefits the players and the game of baseball is a huge step in the right direction,” Espada said. “It’s beneficial for the game, and you can’t go wrong with that.”
Hammerhead sharks versus cardinals
Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium