As the baseball minor leagues have been gutted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many players trying to make their way up to the major leagues have found themselves caught in less than ideal living situations. Thankfully, those in the Houston Astros' minor league system are about to be the recipients of a major gesture that will leave them feeling quite at home.
According to a report by Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic, the Astros are providing furnished apartments to their minor league players at all levels this season. The Astros have four minor league affiliates in the Sugar Land Skeeters, the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, and the Asheville Tourists as well as a Gulf Coast League team.
The Astros' nod towards their minor league system comes amid housing issues for minor league players, which have been spawned by COVID-19 restrictions. This season, players have been allowed only to live in pods with other players and are unable to use host families as they traditionally had been able to. With the Astros taking care of players' housing, the idea is that players will be able to use their salaries on other living expenses.
Economic matters for minor league players have been a major sore point in baseball circles, and Major League Baseball has taken some steps towards addressing the matter of player salaries and living conditions. In February of last year, MLB raised the minimum salary for minor league players in 2021, with the weekly pay of players at the Triple-A level increasing from $502 to $700. Players are the minor league level are not paid during the offseason, but will receive a full five month season's pay for 2021 despite playing only four months this year.
The Astros' step to provide housing for their minor leaguers is a major win in the PR department for the team, which has been seeking to rebuild its reputation after its 2017 World Series title was tainted by a sign-stealing scandal. The Astros are currently second in the AL West with a 19-17 record.