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SALT LAKE CITY — Some members of the Salt Lake Bees won't have to worry about finding housing next season under a new policy unveiled by MLB Thursday.
MLB announced the creation of the Minors Housing Policy, where all 30 MLB teams are required to provide "furnished housing accommodations" for most minor league players across the Minor League Baseball spectrum beginning in 2022.
That means the Los Angeles Angels would be required to pay for housing for any player on the Salt Lake Bees next season who qualifies under the Minors Housing Policy.
All housing is also expected to be "at a reasonable, commutable distance from the ballpark" of a minor league organization. All baseball players will be required to have their own bed with a maximum of two players per room allowed, per the new rule. Clubs will also be responsible for paying all basic utility bills.
If apartments, rental homes or host families aren't available, clubs may choose a hotel to house players as long as those rooms fit the conditions required by the rule.
There are some exceptions. For instance, it doesn't cover a player on an MLB team's 40-man roster optioned to the minor leagues or any player making over $100,000 throughout the course of the minor league season. MLB estimates that the new housing rule will apply to about 90% of players across all levels of Minor League Baseball. Players can also opt out of housing provided by a major league team if they choose to.
A spokesperson for the Bees told KSL.com that the minor league organization is still sifting through the policy to see how it will be applied before the 2022 season begins in early April.
Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a group that formed to give minor league players a "collective voice" in fair work treatment, applauded MLB's announcement in a statement Thursday.
"This is a historic victory for players, who forced the league's hand by speaking up throughout the 2021 season," the statement read, in part. "Let there be no mistake: this victory is the product of collective action by players."
The focus on minor league housing came to a head in June when Kieran Lovegrove and Shane Kelso, two players in the same Angels minor league system as the Bees, spoke out about living conditions while with Double-A Rocket City and Low-A Inland Empire, respectively.
This is a historic victory for players, who forced the league's hand by speaking up throughout the 2021 season.
–Advocates for Minor Leaguers
Lovegrove, who elected free agency earlier this month, told ESPN he was living with six other teammates in a three-bedroom apartment. The place was so packed that one of his teammates needed to sleep in the kitchen of the apartment while two others slept in the living room.
"It's gotten to the point now where there are guys who are in a serious mental health crisis because of how stressful money is here," he told the national sports outlet at the time.
Kelso ultimately retired, citing the living conditions. He told ESPN he was taking a loss every month because rent cost about $400 less than what he was making as a baseball player.
That was the most striking of the recent stories about minor league baseball life. In 2017, amid a lawsuit over minor league baseball wages, former Salt Lake Bees pitcher Tyler DeLoach told NPR he retired early because of the cost of chasing big league dreams. He said he hoped to break even every month after making payments for rent, his student loan, car mortgage and other bills, including clubhouse dues — customary tips players leave for clubhouse staff.
Thursday's announcement was the most recent among chances aimed to improve conditions in the minor league system. MLB, when it took control of MiLB functions during the previous offseason, agreed to bump minor league salaries up between 38% to 72%. It also improved facilities, gave players more amenities and removed all clubhouse dues.
In a statement, Morgan Sword, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said the changes made in the previous offseason addressed "longstanding issues" that have hampered minor league players for decades. The new housing policy, he added, also does that.
"This step forward recognizes that the unprecedented nature of the past two years has further exacerbated affordable housing challenges across the country that existed before the pandemic," his statement read, in part. "The owners are confident that this investment will help ensure that minor league players have every opportunity to achieve their dreams of becoming major leaguers."
Even with all the changes, Advocates for Minor Leaguers said more minor league players make less than $15,000 a year and are still considered seasonal employees.
While celebrating the win, the group pointed out the minor leaguers weren't a part of crafting the new housing policy and that some of the rules "create cause for concern." While group leaders didn't specify what parts of the plan they found concerning, they vowed to ensure it's beneficial for players.
"We look forward to receiving a full round of feedback about the new policy and to advocating for changes where appropriate," the group's statement continued. "As we head into the 2022 season, minor league players remain committed to working together to improve their working conditions through all means available, until at last players obtain the seat at the table that all workers deserve."