Scenes from Spring Training: What the heck is a feetlong hot dog?


I met a cool guy today. That’s him. His name is Kwang Min Park, a baseball journalist from South Korea.  His nickname, however, is Agassi.  Yes, because he likes Andre Agassi. As you might expect, Agassi was here today to cover Shin-Soo Choo.  I saw him interviewing Choo in the clubhouse, and he sat next to me in the press box.

The pic to the right was taken during the bottom of the seventh after Agassi bought the giant chili dog he’s holding.  He set it down and took a picture of it and then considered it for a moment. Then he asked me what I’d call it.

Me: A footlong hot dog.

Agassi: A … foot?

Me: Yes. Like the English system of measurement. It’s 12 inches, and 12 inches is a foot.

Agassi then did something with his phone. I think he was using a visual measuring app of some sort. After looking at it he seemed a little confused.

Agassi: Why is it not a “feetlong” hot dog?

Me: Huh?

He then showed me his phone, which revealed the true measurement to be around 13 inches.  It thus gave him a read out of 1.08 “feet.” With some difficulty — using my actual feet as an example — I explained to him the difference between the singular and the plural of “footlong hotdog.”  He shook his head and said “I feel like I’m in kindergarten.”

I tried to tell him that the real problem was our failure to adopt the metric system, but I don’t know that I salvaged his self esteem on the point.  Matt LaWell, a freelancer who had been hanging out with us, suggested that he call it a “third meter dog,” but Agassi was clearly of the “when in Rome” school.

Agassi dutifully typed in his impressions of his feetlong chili dog to his computer.  He then cut the dog into sections. I declined a taste.  Matt accepted.  At which point Agassi asked him if it was any good compared to other feetlong chilidogs Matt had consumed.  Matt writes about food as well as baseball, so he was prepared to give a full review: the dog and chili were acceptable, but the bun was a tad crunchy as opposed to spongy, thereby harming one’s first impression of the dog. On a scale of one to ten, Matt gave it a six.

At that point the conversation spun into a debate about the merits of Cincinnati chili vs. Texas chili and poor Agassi’s head was close to exploding.  Matt and I explained that, no matter what he took from today’s events, he must be clear on the point that people in this country will kill one another over their love of a particular regional style of chili, and he best not forget it.

Agassi nodded. I could be wrong, but I think he then changed his plane reservations to get himself out of this insane country and back to South Korea as fast as he could. I mean, sure, people may start killing one another on the Korean peninsula any minute now and that’s awful, but at least there are better reasons for it than one’s taste in chili.

Just another day at the ballpark.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

Scott Olson/Getty Images
1 Comment

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.