BY Sam Korman in Culture Digest | 09 AUG 16

Far From the Big Leagues

The precarity of the Minor League Baseball player ... and writers

BY Sam Korman in Culture Digest | 09 AUG 16

King Henry, The Brookly Cyclones Mascot (aka Guy Zoda)

‘Let’s give it up for Geico,’ yells King Henry, the rotund on-field impresario of MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team. For USD$17 a ticket, we’re sitting in the third row near third base, $7.75 Budweiser's and $5.25 foot-long hot dogs in hand. Designated Class-A Short Season, the Cyclones play from June–September and make $1,150 per month, approximately $4,600 per summer. The abbreviated playing season allows college prospects to enter a major league trajectory upon graduation – though, if they don’t advance to AA or AAA, their pay only increases $50 per month per year. 

In my imagination, minor league baseball players and writers belong to the same tax bracket and precarious, specialized freelance economy. I imagine these guys fill out a 1099 tax form like I do, and every April, their taxes must look like mine: the grim, impossible question money poses to career choice. In March, Brian Blanchfield appeared on the KCRW Bookworm podcast to discuss his recent collection of essays, Proxies: Essays Near Knowing (2016). He reads a passage that lists his salaries chronologically: $3,500 per semester as ‘writer in residence’, $14,000 per year as visiting assistant professor of poetry, $52,000 per year as full time replacement faculty. He mentions that members of the poetry and academic communities, surprisingly, were dismayed when he publicized statistics which tick off his far-flung itinerancy – gradually, he’s becoming middle class in Arizona.

In 2012, I moved to St. Louis for a curatorial position. I borrowed money and paid $1,000 cash for a car of dubious origins: a 1997 Chevy Cavalier, 197,000 miles, white with white flames on the hood. With a small family inheritance, I paid off the loan, and used the rest to pay for repairs and property taxes St. Louis levies on automobiles. I scrapped the car when I left the Midwest. Now I ride the train to Coney Island on my $31-per-week metrocard.

Sam Korman is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York.