Pandemic puts minor league baseball players’ careers in limbo

The definition of normal life has drastically changed as the novel coronavirus spreads. Everything from how people grocery shop to how they exercise has been transformed, and sporting events are no different. It’s unknown if there will be a baseball season this year. Minor league players, who deal with trying to make it to “the show” — the big leagues — are now attempting to live with the sudden transition of staying at home and out of scouts’ sights.

Major League Baseball has postponed the season and dismissed everyone. SFMN spoke to several players who said they were first sent to local hotels for three to four days, then home after it became apparent that the virus was not a short-term situation.

Andrés Núñez, 24, is a pitcher for the Lexington Legends, a Kansas City Royals minor league team, since 2018. He’s frustrated by the uncertainty of it all. “Not knowing the start date makes preparing for a season a little more challenging in the aspect of not knowing how hard you need to go,” said Núñez. “I see it as there isn’t much I can do aside from controlling how I prepare.”

Eddie Silva, 24, is an infielder in the Milwaukee Brewers’ system with the Carolina Mudcats. He said the most frustrating part is knowing all the hard work he’s put in has to be put on pause. Still, he’s trying to look at the bright side. “Getting upset isn’t going to help, so I just have to stay focused and keep doing everything I have been doing this off-season,” said Silva.

Michael Hernández, 24, is a catcher who was picked up by the Visalia Rawhide, an Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league team, in January 2020. While the lack of training facilities is a setback, he said that the strict regulations on social distancing are also difficult. Hernández said that regular workouts are not enough, and that practicing catching, throwing and batting are essential.

These players all graduated from Archbishop McCarthy High School and played varsity baseball together. They have remained close friends, and during breaks from the season, they get together to drill. They’ve relied on one another to practice catching, throwing and hitting during every offseason, and again now during this season’s pause. They use weights and workout bands to stay in shape on days they don’t do baseball exercises.

“Workouts are at local parks that are open and in our houses,” Hernández said. “There’s a group of about four or five of us that get together daily to practice all baseball activities.”

Brian González, 24, is a pitcher for the Bowie Baysox, a minor league team with the Baltimore Orioles. He said it’s a bit disheartening to work so hard in the offseason to get ready to play just to have this throw them off track.

“I’m fortunate enough to have some friends that are in the same position as me, so we try to link up in the neighborhood park just to get some throwing in,” he said. “It’s definitely a struggle to find a place to do baseball workouts though, so I’ve mostly been doing home workouts provided by the teams.”

The players said their respective organizations have been in constant contact to ensure they are all healthy and keeping up with the spring training workouts.

While they are being compensated during this time, some make less than $10,000 for the entire season, just a fraction of what major league players earn. And the longer the quarantine lasts, the less prepared they are for that ultimate goal of playing in the majors.

“I’m not entirely sure what will happen, as no one knows exactly when the exact start of the season will be,” said Silva. “I can only stay ready for the upcoming season when they decide a start date.”

Major League Baseball continues to monitor the situation, with reports saying Opening Day could be pushed back to as late as the July 4 weekend.


Caplin News Contributor

Sabrina was born in Venezuela, and has lived in South Florida since she was 3 years old. Her major is broadcast media, and her dream is to be an entertainment on-air talent.