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.


  1. lnewcomer

    I went to several games over the years since the Dell Diamond opened and it was quite common for the fans to pass the hat, especially those behind the home team dugout, that I assume were probably season ticket holders. There wasn’t any announcement made, but often, usually after a HR, or possibly a nice defensive play or good pitching performance someone would come around with an empty helmet which would eventually find its way into the dugout. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure it was a fan thing. I never saw any RR Express employees involved.

    I don’t have a problem with it, although I didn’t pay enough attention to see whether the fans showed any discrimination between a really top-ranked draft pick, who might be playing on a somewhat lucrative contract vs. a career minor-league type guy. I suppose in the former case it might seem silly. I never worked out exactly what the regular minor-league guys make, but I think it’s a pretty low wage, especially since the job isn’t year round.

  2. roundrock15

    When you’re at Round Rock, you’re generally talking about a lot of guys who either have played in the majors, or who are at least on the 40-man roster, and so are getting a minimum of $400,000 a year (that’s the new rate… it was $390,000 last year).

    The lower you go, into Single-A and Rookie ball, I understand the sentiment, and I don’t really have a problem with it, but it was sure a weird moment for me. I’ve been to a lot of minor league games, and this is a first for me. I’m not really sure how to feel about it. Like I said, some guys are making next to nothing. Especially at the lower levels, teams have host families, who put the players up because they can’t afford housing.

    So I get it, but it is at least a bit odd.

  3. Paige Landsem

    That does seem rather strange. You’d think the hope of a Major League contract would be incentive enough, but times are changing, and maybe some teams will try anything to get a good game from the players.

  4. renaudtn

    Woaw, that is really odd! I didn’t know anything about those ‘tips’. I understand you feel weird about it. Frankly I don’t like it. Sure players in the rookie leagues, A, AA don’t make a lot of money by MLB standards, but they still make more than many in this country. I read an article a few weeks ago about the only two French players in the minors (both in RL); they both got a $25,000 signing bonus, and they’re paid around $1000-1200/month (I’m talking about a free agent and a 19th round pick here…); they also get meal money. Sure it’s not great, but it’s still well above the poverty line. I mean you give a tip to a waiter/waitress because they don’t have a real income beside tips; baseball players on the other hand do get paid. Asking an extra tip to the fans after they’ve already spent $13 for a seat is not right in my opinion. If I was 20 or so, just out of college/high school, with just myself to take care of, I’d be more than glad to get this kind of bonus and play baseball for $12,000-14,000/year. Being promoted to the next level should be their reward; not tips from fans. I checked a couple of websites, and it appears that AA players make from $1,500 up, AAA from $2,150 up; obviously some prospects make MUCH more than that. I wonder if Price got him some tips when he started in the minors two years ago… 😉

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