As Major League Baseball continues its commitment to a first-class development system, the league’s 30 owners are closing in on an announcement for a new housing policy at all levels of the Minor Leagues.
“MLB is engaged in a multi-year effort to modernize the Minor League system and better assist players as they pursue their dreams of playing in the Major Leagues,” the league said in a statement. “In 2021, we increased the salaries for Minor League players by 38-72%, depending on level, and significantly reduced travel requirements during the season. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of improvements to Minor League ballparks around the country are already underway, including substantial renovations to player-facing facilities like locker rooms and training rooms.
“In mid-September, the owners discussed the issue of player housing and unanimously agreed to begin providing housing to certain Minor League players. We are in the process of finalizing the details of that policy and expect it to be announced and in place for the 2022 season.”
The 2021 Minor League season saw teams successfully return to the field, while installing a number of new features that benefited both players and fans.
In addition to the salary increases, there were improved working conditions to promote player health and support development, fewer miles and hours spent traveling, more frequent off-days to improve rest and recovery, and new standards for facilities and clubhouse amenities.
Prior to the season, MLB announced a new structure for affiliated baseball, with 120 teams agreeing to join the new Professional Development League. One of the key changes was the relocation of Triple-A affiliates closer to their Major League clubs; the average commute from a Triple-A team to its big league affiliate is now 200 miles closer than it was in 2019.
Six new ballparks were opened to strong attendance, introducing fan-friendly innovations, while spurring business development in their communities.
A number of experimental rules changes were also tested at various levels of the Minors in 2021, including the utilization of larger bases at Triple-A, Double-A games requiring all four infielders to have their cleats on the infield dirt and pickoff-attempt restrictions in Low-A games.
In addition, the MLB Draft was moved to All-Star week, while the Minors were featured prominently on MLB.com and MLB Network. MiLB.TV subscriptions also increased by 40 percent in 2021, thanks to the daily broadcast of nearly 100 teams.
As would be expected with any change of this magnitude, there have been some growing pains, including criticism from players. But all in all, league officials are pleased with the progress.
“The 2021 season was the best we've ever done in terms of providing an environment conducive to professional development,” MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Morgan Sword said last month. “We are in Year 1 of what's going to be some pretty significant steps forward here in the next couple of years.”