This is the first installment of Minor Issues, a new series which will explore—mostly through the eyes of the players themselves—life in the minor leagues. The focus won’t be on statistics or prospect rankings, but rather on the lifestyle itself, from the day-to-day challenges to the inevitable clashing of dreams with the sometimes brutal reality of baseball as a business. Part of the goal will be to educate, but no less important will be the story lines, which will range from tragic to humorous to almost hard to believe.
Leading off the series is Garrett Broshuis, who retired last week after spending six seasons in the San Francisco Giants organization. Drafted out of the University of Missouri, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, the erstwhile right-hander appeared in 150 professional games, topping out in Triple-A. Broshuis talked about the economic realities of a minor leaguer prior to hanging up his spikes for the last time.
David Laurila: You're a professional baseball player, which means that you draw a huge salary and live a lavish lifestyle. Correct?
Garrett Broshuis: Yes, I must confess, I'm a professional baseball player. My everyday car is an '08 Bentley, though I might be replacing it soon because I spilled some Red Bull on the seat while driving the other day. My baby though is a vintage helicopter that sits in the backyard.
Okay, enough of that. I drive an old Chevy. I don't have any gold chains, and I'll occasionally wander into Goodwill — hey, they have some good t-shirts. Even my dog is used. I got her from the pound two years ago, but I love that mutt.
DL: How much do minor league players actually earn?
GB: There's a lot of variance depending on the levels and experience, but the average minor leaguer probably makes around $1,200 per month. Now, I don't want to sound ungrateful. I'm appreciative of the opportunities that I've been given, but this makes it sound better than what it is. Players are only paid during the five month season—not during spring training and instructional leagues. So in reality, players are required to work six or seven months, but are only paid for five months. It amounts to around $6000 before taxes. It makes it tough to live, especially in a tough economy where finding an offseason job can be as difficult as finding a diamond in Arkansas. A lot of guys have to ask their parents for money. If they can't do that, they resort to their plastic parents, the credit card.
DL: What are the living arrangements for minor leaguers during the season?
GB: Wow, living arrangements. This is a tough one for players. When you arrive to wherever you're playing, you're given three nights in the hotel before you're dumped out on the street. Often, you don't find out where you're playing until a day or two before, so there's not much time for preparation before you arrive. You have to rely on the older guys—the veterans of the town—to help you out. Then you have to try to convince a landlord to do a month-to-month lease, which never happens. You settle for a six month lease for a five-month season. But the real issue comes when you get moved up or down to another city. Then you're stuck with that lease and have to hope that someone will take your spot. If not, it can make things difficult.
The furnishings within these apartments is another story. The typical couch is from Goodwill. It's usually plaid with torn corners and around 30 years old. Air mattresses are a staple in the bedrooms. That's the only furniture you'll find: a couch and air mattresses. Oh, and a TV "borrowed" from Walmart.
DL: What is the travel like?
GB: Travel's rough, but you kind of just get used to it after a while. Well, I take that back. you don't completely get accustomed to sleeping on the floor of a bus an entire night, contorted between seats, face vibrating against the floor, but since everyone's doing it, it becomes commonplace. In fact, all of minor league baseball is kind of like that. You're like a poor kid that doesn't realize he's poor because everyone around him is poor. Then someone shows up with nice new shoes and everything changes. At least the hotels are usually bed bug-free.