Although minor leaguers typically receive housing, food and a weekly stipend for participating in spring training, they do not begin to draw their salaries until the start of the regular season.
Basically, minor leaguers are unpaid interns during the month or so when spring training is typically conducted, and Major League Baseball is fighting in federal court to keep it that way.
Arguing for an eight-year-old lawsuit brought by minor leaguers over their compensation to be thrown out of court, a lawyer for MLB said minor league players should be considered trainees during the spring training period and should not be paid as they are not employees, according to The Athletic.
“It is the players that obtain the greater benefit from the training opportunities that they are afforded than the clubs, who actually just incur the cost of having to provide that training,” Elise Bloom of law firm Proskauer Rose told the court. “During the training season, the players are not employees, and would not be subject to either the Fair Labor Standards Act or any state minimum wage act.”
MLB also claims players who attend spring training actually receive a value of $2,200 weekly from working with their teams based on what amateurs pay for baseball training camps. Per the league and Bloom, minor league players also gain life skills.
“In particular, Players had the opportunity to develop their language skills,” according to Bloom. “Plaintiffs testified that minor league training allowed them to develop their communication skills, leadership ability, discipline and time management skills.”
Whatever happens or doesn’t happen with regard to payment during spring training remains a moot point as the MLB lockout remains in place. As a result, spring training (which should have started this week) has not been scheduled.
Talks between MLB and the MLBPA are ongoing, but an agreement by the end of February or early March is needed if baseball is going to open on March 31 as planned. At this point, that looks like a long shot as the two sides met for just 15 minutes during their latest negotiating session.
Baseball’s work stoppage, which is the game’s first since 1995, began on December 2.