TAMPA, Fla. — With spring training facilities in Florida closed down, minor league baseball players face uncertain times due to coronavirus.
“It was kind of a shock. we weren’t sure what to think as players,” minor league pitcher Mark Moclair said. “We didn’t think it was real.”
It was nearly three weeks ago, the COVID-19 curveball cancelled Major League Baseball’s spring training, leaving minor league players, like Moclair, a former University of Tampa pitcher, trying to make the best of a strange situation.
“Our staff has been really good, as well as other organizations, sending out modified throwing programs, modified training for guys to execute at home regardless of how much equipment they may or may not have,” Moclair said in the dugout of UT’s baseball field.
Finding places to train is becoming harder as cities limit the number of people that can gather at one time. Another question for some players, where is the next pay check coming from?
“That was our primary concern,” Moclair said. “That first week they sent us home - normally we’re in full swing of playing and doing our job. For a lot of guys an off-season full time job is a reality.”
Major League Baseball had said all minor league players would be paid through April 7. On Tuesday, MLB extended that date until at least May 31 at $400 per week. Under normal circumstances, the league minimum for a Triple-A player is $502 per week. At Double-A, it’s $350 per week and even less for Single-A players.
“Hopefully that news by Major League Baseball hopefully made a difference with easing their stress, their comfort level and allowing them to focus on staying healthy, self-isolating and still training,” Moclair said.
In the meantime, Moclair and a former University of Tampa teammate continue to stay active on their former home field.
“The thing that’s encouraging with the minor league grinders, is the creativity,” Moclair said. “Guys are getting creative with at-home training techniques ways to develop their craft.”