PHOENIX, Ariz. – For most, the news was delivered via text message or email.
“All minor league players and staff will be sent home over the next 24-48 hours. This is not to be repeated, but for your information to start preparing,” the Colorado Rockies told players in an email.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are closing our facility and suspending spring training,” the Milwaukee Brewers wrote to their minor leaguers. “Players that are currently rehabbing should remain in Phoenix. All others should make plans to travel home as soon as tomorrow, Saturday 3/14.”
“We encourage everyone to go home until further notice,” the Chicago White Sox told players. “If it is unsafe for you to travel, or there may be challenges in a return to the US, you may remain here, but this must be discussed and cleared by the organization.”
Those communications, sent Friday and obtained by The Associated Press, left minor leaguers at spring training camps in Florida and Arizona scrambling. Most were told to go home, including players from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and other countries, despite concerns they may have trouble returning to the U.S.
Baseball players are only paid in-season — which does not include spring training — and the minimum yearly salary at Class A was only $5,800 last season. In lieu of paychecks, many minor leaguers depend on team complexes for housing, meals and workout facilities during spring camp. Most also get a per diem of $100-200 per week.
For most players, that all disappeared when Major League Baseball suspended spring training Friday.
“We will be pretending this is just the offseason," one player recalled being told by a team official in a meeting Friday, when he was informed he must leave. All minor leaguers who spoke to The Associated Press for this story did so on condition of anonymity due to concerns that teams might punish them for speaking publicly.