Getting Paid for Playing a Game: the Truth

bull durhamPlaying baseball in the Show is what most boys grow up dreaming about.  After all, who wouldn’t want to play a game for a living – you put on a uniform, your cleats, grab your mitt and your bat, play in a cathedral as thousands of fans watch.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Crash Davis, the famed catcher in Bull Durham, shared what the Show was like.  He said,

Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.

Playing in the Show is great, I’m sure.  After all, you’re treated like royalty, and you make money to match.

Getting to the Show is another story.  Dirk Hayhurst, a former big leaguer, writes about the gross inequity of minor league baseball as compared to the major league.  In the article, “An Inside Look into the Harsh Conditions of Minor League Baseball”, he says,

Being a minor league player is a brutal experience—a brutal experience you, dear minor league player, can never speak of. If you ever decide to tell the general public of your disgust with professional baseball, that it’s paying you in stale beer and day-old hot dogs for the honor of playing among its chosen immortals, expect your words to echo off into the endless vacuum.

He goes on to say,

But minor league baseball is not a fantasy. It’s a profession. A cruel one that justifies its cruelty by offering a golden carrot so valuable and coveted that young men will put their blinders on and drudge after it until they get their teeth on it or get put down trying.

But this carrot does not negate the fact that, at its lowest levels, professional baseball is exploitation. It has been for years—decades. So long, in fact, that it has become a victim of its own belief system: that a player must sacrifice and succumb to unfair treatment as part of “chasing the dream.”

If you have thoughts of playing professional baseball, or you think it’s a glamorous thing, read Hayhurst’s article.  It’s eye-opening regarding the way the system works, and it reveals the way MLB treats its potential players.

And, if you do make it, here’s hoping you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and have a sleeping bag.


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