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Minor League advocacy group created, demands $15K salaries for players

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It’s not a union. Rather, it’s being characterized as “a nonprofit advocacy group” that “will strive to provide a collective voice for minor leaguers.” But the organization, called Advocates for Minor Leaguers, was formed today and demanded that Major League Baseball roughly double salaries in the minors to $15,000 per season.

The group is led by Garrett Broshuis, a former minor league pitcher and the lawyer who has represented minor league players in lawsuits against Major League Baseball for several years. Other co-founders include:

  • Ty Kelly, a recently retired MLB player who will soon play for Team Israel in the Olympics;
  • Bill Fletcher, a long-time labor activist, author, and syndicated radio host;
  • Matt Paré, a former minor league player who made the “Homeless Minor Leaguer” YouTube channel as a player;
  • Raul Jacobson, a former minor league player who is now a third-year law student;
  • Lisa Raphael, founder of the creative agency Relatable Content, and producer on an Emmy Award-winning documentary about minor league life for the Brooklyn Cyclones; and
  • “A current longtime MLB player who wishes to remain anonymous.”

“This past week really provided an example of why this group needed to be out there,” Broshuis said on a conference call with the media this morning. He was referring to the situation in which they were forced to leave spring training camps due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite their reliance on those complexes for food, training facilities and often housing during spring training.

The Major League Baseball Players Association only represents players on 40-man rosters, leaving 100 or more players per franchise without representation. Broshuis said that while Advocates for Minor Leaguers is not a union, he is hoping one can be formed, perhaps with his association’s support.

“Would I like to see a minor league union in the future? Yeah, I think that would be a great situation for minor league players,” Broshuis said.

Broshuis did not say how, exactly, he might get Major League Baseball to take the new group’s concerns seriously, characterizing this as a first step. For its part, Major League did not offer comment and, instead, referred reporters to its press release from yesterday in which it announced that it would give minor leaguers the per diems it would’ve paid them had spring training not been canceled.

Fans, activists and even members of the media have been contributing to fundraising efforts to help minor leaguers as the shutdown has worn on. Broshuis said that he saw those efforts as complimentary to Advocates for Minor Leaguers’ goals.

“Hopefully in the future, there won’t be a need for a GoFundMe campaign just so a guy can buy diapers for his kid,” he said.

The major league minimum is $563,500 this year, and the top players make over $30 million annually. For players on 40-man rosters on option to the minors, the minimum is $46,000 this season. Non-40-man roster minor leaguers typically make $5-10,000 a year. They are exempt from federal labor laws, including minimum wage laws, by virtue of the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” which was quietly inserted onto page 1,967 of a $1.3 trillion spending bill in 2018 after urging and lobbying by Major League Baseball, it’s executives and its owners.

(parts of this report were contributed by the Associated Press)

Ex-Angels employee charged in overdose death of Tyler Skaggs

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A former Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year’s overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, prosecutors in Texas announced Friday.

Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Kay was communications director for the Angels.

Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games.

Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner’s report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named.

“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose – coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career – should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.

If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.