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Oakland A's To Stop Paying Minor League Players During The Pandemic

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Major League Baseball and its players continue to haggle over how much money players will get if the truncated season resumes. Millions of dollars are at stake. And against this backdrop, the Oakland Athletics will stop paying their minor league players $400 a week. NPR's Tom Goldman reports that the A's are the first team to do this because of the financial strain caused by the pandemic.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: At the end of March, with baseball shut down, major league teams agreed to keep paying their minor league players $400 a week stipends through May 31. With that deadline looming, Oakland general manager David Forst sent an email to the A's roughly 200 minor leaguers saying the team won't continue the payments beyond the deadline. Forst says it was a difficult decision and comes at a time when full-time employees with the team are being furloughed and having their pay cut. Dominic Yearego is a 24-year-old relief pitcher in the Oakland minor league system. For him, the stipends after taxes are about $340 a week. It's not a lot, but Yearego says for a minor leaguer, it helps.

DOMINIC YEAREGO: That's a good chunk of change that allows us to keep training and not have to worry too much about money. And now it kind of changes a little bit.

GOLDMAN: Like most minor leaguers, he's used to getting non-baseball jobs during the offseason when minor leaguers don't get paid. Now he has to look for work again. But, he says, it's confusing.

YEAREGO: You just don't know what to get.

GOLDMAN: Because baseball might or might not be restarting soon.

YEAREGO: Do I need a quicker part-time job 'cause I can leave in a month? Or do I need to get something where I can be there for the next nine, 10 months and continue to do that while I'm training?

GOLDMAN: Plus, it's not exactly easy right now for anyone to find a job during the pandemic. Yearego is living and training in Amarillo, Texas. He says he's thankful that some locals have responded to his Twitter and Facebook messages asking for any possible work. He says he gets it that the A's, who declined an interview request, had to make a tough decision, but it's still frustrating.

YEAREGO: Obviously we are the bottom of the totem pole, but we're still professional athletes. Me and my roommate were talking about - we're playing professional baseball, and we're struggling more now than we did when we were in college.

GOLDMAN: Minor league assistance organizations, including More Than Baseball, say they're committed to helping A's minor leaguers. Meanwhile, several other major league teams say they'll extend minor league stipends past Sunday's deadline, including the Miami Marlins, who last year earned the least revenue of any team.

Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.