Anyone even remotely connected with baseball knows that there is an army of behind-the-scenes personnel without whom clubs couldn’t function. On a day-to-day basis, perhaps no one has as much impact over the operations of the club as a clubhouse manager.
The job description of a clubbie would probably take several pages to list. They prep the clubhouse for every day’s game, clean the clubhouse, wash and dry uniforms, pack up the team prior to road trips, and a wide variety of unofficial, problem-solving duties. There’s paperwork, managing personalities, logistics, and out-and-out grunt work involved. MLB is proposing changes that will drastically alter the role, and not necessarily for the better.
Under the current system, clubhouse managers are paid a (low) monthly salary by their MiLB team, supplemented by mandatory clubhouse dues which range from $8 to 15/day, as well as tips from players. The clubbie sued the dues to buy food for pre and post-game meals, although more and more nutrition-conscious MLB teams have opted to pay for the after game food, leaving the clubbie responsible for the pre-game spread. With most minor league players making little money themselves (prior to this new agreeement), tips are not necessarily a huge source of income.
Under the proposal, clubbies would become employees of the MLB parent. The minimum pay would be a pro-rated $36 000 (US). JJ Cooper of Baseball America has worked that out to just over $16 000 a minor league season. Under this new system, clubhouse dues would be eliminated.
On top of that, MLB clubbies will be expected to travel on the road with their teams. Usually the first to arrive at the park and always the last to leave after completing their myriad duties, their job will become even harder. When the team was on the road, clubbies had a chance to take a breath and lead a life of normal working hours. If this proposal goes through, they will only get days off when the team has one.
Given the poor salary and difficult working conditions, it’s hard to see a person being able to make a living. The position of clubhouse manager may well turn into something of an internship, staffed by a young person willing to put up with the long hours/poor pay. In many organizations, clubbies are valued members, whose worth to the team would be hard to measure. Under MLB’s proposal, it may become more of a gig, with a revolving cast of characters.
Look, it’s good that MLB has finally recognized that they need to play and treat their minor league players better – that’s been a long time coming. The Blue Jays have been at the forefront of change in that regard, and that leaves some room for optimism that perhaps they will find a way to pay their current clubbies a living wage, and provide reasonable working conditions. Many clubbies have been furloughed, having had to take jobs in other occupations to make ends meet during this pandemic. Just like the players, in many ways they’re chasing a dream as well. MLB has shown a propensity to back off some of their initial proposals this fall – let’s hope that’s the case in this situation as well.