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They saw it when we saw it. News broke at 7:57 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Wednesday night, just as the Albuquerque Isotopes wrapped a light two-hour practice and started to splinter off for the night.
By his own admission, Cole Tucker had other things on his mind. So, the 24th overall pick in 2014 and new to the Rockies organization after nine years with the Pirates was a little late to the news.
“The Phoenix Suns were on (Wednesday) night and Kevin Durant was playing,” he laughed. “So I was hauling a** out of here. I kind of missed it.”
Like Tucker, veteran catcher Grayson Greiner only saw the news later on social media, not through a formal release.
Matt Carasiti is a journeyman right hander, back with the Rockies after stints with the Cubs, Giants, Red Sox and some time in Japan. He was playing chess on his iPad when he got an ESPN notification.
“All of a sudden, it’s like, hey,” he said. “We won.”
As first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and Major League Baseball reached an agreement on Wednesday night for a five-year collective bargaining agreement, the first of its kind at the minor league level.
Far and away the most notable event in the minor league union’s brief six=month history, there are 12 different conditions in the CBA, covering anything and everything from clubhouse nutrition, team transportation, size of domestic reserve lists and the right to second opinions regarding medical diagnoses.
The lead item, though: increased salaries for all minor league baseball players, effectively immediately after ratification through a vote by minor leaguers.
For the vast majority of the 2023 Isotopes, that meant their base salary went from $17,500 to $35,800 — an $18,300 overnight increase with checks due year-round except for a six-week winter break.
But as the Isotopes took the field for another light practice on Wednesday, it wasn’t a celebration. A few players that spoke with the Journal admitted they hadn’t read through the entire CBA. None was clear at the time on what a voting process would look like.
“I’m sure no one would vote that we don’t make more money,” utility player Nolan Jones said.
So, a new day in a new era was spent much like the days before it — chatting around the batting cage. Shagging fly balls. Long toss and the like.
“It’s something that should’ve happened a long time ago,” first baseman Michael Toglia said. “Nevertheless, we made it here and I’m happy that it happened.”
Across a team filled with players from different backgrounds, states, countries and experiences, that was the over-arching sentiment — overdue, but happy to have it. A few noted it won’t directly affect them right now but they’re happy for those that will see an immediate change.
About them. To Greiner, a deal like this helps everybody, but nobody more than the “needles in the haystack” — late-round picks without much of a signing bonus, trying to catch on anywhere that’ll have them and losing more money than they make.
“(They’re) gonna get an extra two, three, four year(s) to keep trying and who knows?” he said. “They might end up making a 10-year career out of it. Whereas before the CBA, they might have been out of the game and never been recognized.”
Greiner, 30, is one of the Isotopes’ oldest players, a veteran who’s had stints in the Tigers and Diamondback organizations. He’s had seasons where he lost money. He remembers seeing guys peel off the roster for a “real job,” either to provide for their family or simply survive.
“It never got that dire for me,” he said.
And for Matt Casariti, a deal like this is a big step away from four guys crammed in a two bedroom apartment in Asheville, N.C., no furniture and no feeling that you were being looked after.
“For so long, it was like we had zero power. Being a minor leaguer, you basically were just like whatever they wanted to do, they could do. If you didn’t like it, quit. Now, not that there’s a huge power shift, but you have people behind you.
“It feels like, no matter where you are, in some aspect, in some way, shape or form, you’re being taken care of by people. Which, is good.”