Amid mounting pressure from players and advocacy groups, Major League Baseball will require teams to provide housing for minor league players starting in 2022, sources told ESPN.
While MLB has yet to outline its plan formally, six team officials told ESPN they are starting to prepare to help house players across each of their four minor league affiliates. In mid-September, according to sources, owners from the league's 30 teams agreed unanimously to a plan that would provide housing for minor league players. Whether they will offer stipends that fully cover housing or provide the lodging itself has yet to be decided, sources said. An MLB spokesperson said the league is finalizing the details of the plan.
Minor league players have grown increasingly outspoken about their working conditions, criticizing teams for salaries that leave some below the poverty line and the financial issues that stem from having to provide their own housing for home games. The emergence of groups Advocates for Minor Leaguers and More Than Baseball, their use of social media to highlight the living conditions of minor league players and the willingness of players to talk on the record about their experiences illuminated issues about which players have spoken privately for years.
"This is a historic victory for minor league baseball players," Harry Marino, the executive director of Advocates of Minor Leaguers and a former minor league player, told ESPN. "When we started talking to players this season about the difficulties they face, finding and paying for in-season housing was at the top of almost every player's list. As a result, addressing that issue became our top priority."
Momentum toward providing housing at the team level already was increasing behind the scenes, sources told ESPN. Multiple teams were discussing following the lead of the Houston Astros, who this season covered lodging for all their minor league players at home and on the road. Other teams offered rooms or stipends at certain affiliates but not all.
The total cost for a team to house all minor league players at home for one season, according to two executives whose teams had explored doing so before the league pursued its mandate, is less than $1 million. Though the minor leagues especially are populated with small towns and lower rents, they also include some of the most expensive cities in the country, such as Brooklyn, the High-A affiliate of the New York Mets, and San Jose, the Low-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.