MADISON, Ala. – Rocket City Trash Pandas pitcher Kieran Lovegrove says the decision by Major League Baseball to provide housing for minor league players is a step in the right direction.
In two ESPN articles published earlier this year, Lovegrove spoke out about what he described as poor living conditions for minor league players.
Lovegrove, who was a 2012 third-round draft pick for the Cleveland Indians organization, has spent most of the past decade pitching for various minor league teams. In March of 2021, Lovegrove signed with the Los Angeles Angels organization. In May, he was assigned to the Angels’ Double-A affiliate in Madison, the Rocket City Trash Pandas.
According to Lovegrove, just days after he found out he had been assigned to the Trash Pandas, he was on a flight, moving from Arizona to Alabama. Once he arrived, the team gave him a list of suggested apartment companies to check out. However, Lovegrove says all of the apartments on the list were way too expensive for his $600/week salary or didn’t have any units available.
While Lovegrove and other teammates struggled to find housing, the season began. He says during the entire month of May, he and other teammates paid out of pocket to live in hotel rooms while trying to find an apartment. One night, after getting back to Madison in the early morning hours following an away game in Chattanooga, Lovegrove says he and nearly a dozen other Trash Pandas players slept inside the clubhouse at Toyota Field to avoid having to pay for a hotel room.
Lovegrove feels the Angels organization should have had housing arranged for the players when they arrived.
“You just keep pushing and pushing because you have the opportunity to do something incredible, which is play baseball,” Lovegrove said. “But I think it’s gotten to a point now where that payoff doesn’t match the sacrifice that we’re making.”
Eventually, several of the players found housing in apartment units that had previously been occupied by Huntsville Havoc hockey players. But even then, Lovegrove says they were cramming five or six guys into a three-bedroom apartment.
In addition, Lovegrove says the meals provided by the team did not always lend themselves to healthy performance. He says in one instance, the players were given a Caesar salad as a pre-game meal. He feels that the low-carb meal wasn’t enough to sustain him through the game, and could have led to an injury.
On Sunday, the MLB announced that it would be providing housing for minor league players starting with the 2022 season.
MLB issued the following statement to News 19:
“MLB is engaged in a multi-year effort to modernize the minor league system and better assist players as they pursue their dreams of playing in the Major Leagues. In 2021, we increased the salaries for minor league players by 38-72%, depending on level, and significantly reduced travel requirements during the season. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of improvements to minor league ballparks around the country are already underway, including substantial renovations to player-facing facilities like locker rooms and training rooms. In mid-September, the owners discussed the issue of player housing and unanimously agreed to begin providing housing to certain minor league players. We are in the process of finalizing the details of that policy and expect it to be announced and in place for the 2022 season.”Major League Baseball Spokesperson
Lovegrove says that while the announcement is a small victory for minor league players, he doesn’t fully trust that MLB will implement the housing provisions with the players’ best interests in mind. He says there is still a lot of work to be done to eradicate years of unfair conditions.
“This is the bare minimum,” Lovegrove said of the announcement. “This is the bare minimum in terms of taking care of your employees.”