Since the MLB draft started in 1965, only 23 players have gone straight to the majors without first playing in the minors.
Minor League Baseball is a part of Major League Baseball. But, it greatly lacks the care it deserves from ball clubs, specifically ownership and management.
The minor league lifestyle isn’t a glorious one. Players spend years in the minor leagues and often don’t have the proper food, housing, or equipment they need to be a professional athlete.
There are even organizations such as More Than Baseball that are dedicated to ensuring minor league players have the appropriate resources they need. This involves food, housing, equipment, and life after baseball.
Following the MLB lockout, The minor leagues received more attention when they reduced the number of teams to 120 (30 Triple-A, 30 Double-A, 30 High-A, 30 Low-A) and then an entirely new program for rookie ball .
As a result of reducing the teams, the salaries of players increased. However, most players continued to make under minimum wage during the season. Players are forced to make major sacrifices in order to chase the big league dream.
In 2021, the average minor leaguer had a salary of just $10,000 a year. To pay a living wage of $35,000 per year for every minor league baseball player would cost each ball club only $5 million per season.
The minor league system isn’t great. There are many things the MLB can do to improve the minors. Nevertheless, every player understands and are willing to take the risks, sacrifices, and dedication needed to make the majors.
Despite the hardships minor leaguers face, there are also players who have positive experiences in the minors. It’s still baseball. Players make bonds with each other. Team build chemistry. Teams win championships and celebrate. It’s fun for the players, the coaches, and the fans.
I had the opportunity to talk to Colby Morris. A reliever in the minors for the Brooklyn Cyclones (the New York Mets High-A affiliate).
Morris has been in the minor leagues for two seasons. He has experienced the minor league lifestyle and responded to my questions on minor league baseball.
Getting to know New York Mets minor league pitcher Colby Morris
Here’s the interview:
Q: What was your expectation of the minor league lifestyle compared to what it actually was when you first entered the league?
A: I played two years of independent baseball before signing with the Mets so I had a pretty good idea of the minor league lifestyle. MiLB lifestyle is much easier than Indy-ball’s because of more resources in regards to nutrition, hotels on the road, facilities, trainers, and coaches. The conditions aren’t close to MLB level but the Mets have been very receptive to hearing our thoughts on how to improve the lifestyle which is a welcome dialogue that was unexpected before signing.
Q: How are you able to buy into the process of making the majors especially since you’ve been in the minors for your whole career?
A: It’s the same mindset we’ve all had since we were kids—You need to dream big as a player to make it big. It’s unlikely that I become a staple arm in the big leagues but because I’m with an affiliate team there’s a chance still and that’s all I need. When you see your teammates promoted and people around you making it to the MLB level you gain confidence that you can do the same. My peers’ success humanizes those at the highest level because I saw that they were once in my shoes.
Q: What decisions have you had to make in order to continue in the minors?
A: I’ve had to work offseason jobs, including coaching and working in retail which wasn’t ideal after working long hours all season and continuing those hours in the winter.
Q: At what times have you considered retirement? Do many players contemplate retirement in the minors? Is this something players publicly show to each other?
A: I think many players in the minor leagues consider retirement after a difficult stretch of weeks and lack of success for a prolonged period of time. There are always ups and downs; there are always other interests in life to consider other than baseball; There are people and places that you miss during the long season. It’s important to not get too high or too low when you have success or suffer from a lack of it.
At this stage in my career, however, I’m content with many of my accomplishments on the baseball field and any thoughts of moving on from baseball aren’t born out of fear of failure but rather an excitement for other ventures in life. I think the key to not negatively manifesting these thoughts is to maintain confidence in my abilities, be committed to the entire season as a player no matter the ups and downs, and understand that I can’t play baseball forever so I need to be fully present while I play and to enjoy it every day. Every clubhouse and player-to-player relationship is different so it’s a mixed bag in terms of who talks about these topics with one another. Some do and some don’t. Some want to play forever, some don’t.
Q: Is there a constant flow of frustration around minor league ball clubs? If yes, does everyone feel it?
A: There is not a constant flow of frustration around our minor league teams. The Mets are better than most with minor league player treatment, but our day-to-day attitudes are pretty laid back. We go to the stadium and do our jobs and spend time working out, practicing, getting better, playing games, and socializing in the off-time. I’d say that we don’t spend most of the time complaining about our situations but we’re all aware of the issues in the sport. We deserve to be paid better but we don’t dwell on the negatives on a habitual basis.
Q: Can chemistry be created on minor league teams despite many players rotating through the team and everyone always competing with each other for a call-up? If yes, what teams have you had great chemistry on and how have they been created?
A: Chemistry can absolutely be created in a minor league clubhouse. We all know the reality of the business and sometimes it’s euphoric when players are promoted and sometimes gloomy when they are demoted or released. The core of the team in each instance, however, remains the same after singular roster moves. When you spend nearly every waking moment with a group of players for six months, you can grow very close or be rubbed the wrong way by players. A good group is essential to a good season and our current group in Brooklyn is fantastic and the chemistry speaks to that. Our chemistry results from players with close relationships, good vibes in the locker room, positivity, socializing and taking the chances to get to know one another, and team events.
Thank you so much to Colby Morris. for these fantastic responses. I encourage all fans to support the minor leagues and try to attend games because the talent there is truly remarkable.