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Orioles providing housing for most minor leaguers through May; organization considering use of host families for June

The Orioles are providing housing to their minor league players in Double-A and down through the end of May, an industry source with direct knowledge confirmed.

The organization, which also assisted players at Triple-A earlier this season, is still sorting out its plans for June, the source said, with the possibility that the players will be able to join host families as coronavirus vaccinations continue to increase nationwide.

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Harry Marino, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Advocates for Minor Leaguers, said it’s not universal for major league organizations to provide housing for their minor league players, noting that some prospects could spend more than half their monthly salary toward rent. Marino pointed to the Houston Astros as an organization that has promised to provide housing throughout the 2021 season.

“When a team comes in and says, like the Astros, ‘We’re going to provide you with paid for, furnished housing,’ that essentially acts as something like a 50% pay increase over other teams who don’t do that,” said Marino, a former minor league pitcher with the Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks. “It takes the burden off these players who are trying to perform at the highest level as a professional, that they don’t have to on the side be worried about, ‘Where am I going to sleep tonight?’”

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The Orioles’ generosity has seemed to pay dividends thus far, with Double-A Bowie, High-A Aberdeen and Low-A Delmarva combining to go 41-17 entering play Thursday. Already, a handful of prospects have earned promotions to the next level, and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias hinted recently that more could be coming.

“We may be doing more big-name moves in the next week or two,” Elias told reporters Wednesday. “But very, very unique circumstance this year having the [2020 minor league] season canceled. First and foremost, we wanted to make sure that we weren’t missing anything. We just hadn’t seen these guys play real games for a while. So despite the incredible talent that some of these players have, we on the whole erred toward lower assignments with the idea that, if we felt that they were ready, we would start challenging them.”

Marino said in farm systems where the parent club doesn’t provide housing, those promotions often come with off-the-field challenges, and not only for the player who has to find a place to live in their new city. He said a player in an organization other than Orioles had both of his roommates get promoted, leaving him to pay the rent of a three-bedroom apartment by himself. On the flip side, a minor league pitcher in a different organization had a secondary reason to celebrate a roommate’s promotion: He could move off the couch and sleep in a bed.

That’s why he said players appreciate that the Orioles have provided housing for them thus far and he hopes they and all other teams continue to do so in the future.

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“Host families and the generosity of community members has helped to sort of bridge the gap and soften the blow for a lot of guys in various circumstances, but the reality is without those this year, it’s very, very difficult,” Marino said. “For a team to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to cover this, you have a place to sleep, you don’t have to worry about it, and it’s paid for,’ I think it’s the right thing to do financially, and it’s the right thing to do from a player development standpoint in terms of taking that burden off their shoulders.”

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