There aren’t many guys in the California League who are signed to a Major League contract. The players don’t make a ton of money, and many have off-season jobs to supplement their income.
So on the one hand, giving them a little financial incentive to play well makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, though, the California League has teams who play their home games in places like Adelanto, Lake Elsinore, and Lancaster (the home of the Jethawks, Houston’s High-A affiliate). Towns that were never on great financial footing, and are feeling a lot of pressure as California’s economy takes a tumble.
When Corey Kluber, the starting pitcher for the Lake Elsinore Storm, struck out the side against the High Desert Mavericks on Tuesday, I was surprised to hear the announcement that they would be taking a collection. Sure enough, Storm employees were passing through the audience of 1,414 with buckets, collecting “tips” to give the pitcher for striking out the side.
I was torn, because while I thought it was remarkably quaint and a wonderful gesture, I couldn’t help but wonder how the $74 that the team collected for their pitcher represented a significant sacrifice for the fans, who had already paid $13 each to go to the game, plus the cost of merchandise and concessions (the game was an All-You-Can-Eat affair, but beverages were not included; neither were some food items such as churros, pretzels, and peanuts).
Certainly, no one held a gun to the fans’ heads to make them give money, but I thought it a bit unsettling that Kluber – who stands a legitimate chance at a major league contract – would need “tips” to pitch well, considering that it’s pitching well that would earn him that major league contract.