If you’re active in the sphere of “Twins Twitter” you might have seen the @adoptmilbplayer account already, and he’s doing good things. Something not everyone realizes though, is that minor leaguers only get paid when games are going on—not for spring training. Both MLB and the affiliated minor leagues have pushed their start date out by two week due to the coronavirus pandemic. This means all of the already poorly-paid minor league players have another two weeks without a paycheck that they didn’t budget for or plan on. With that in mind, I reached out to die hard Twins fan Michael Rivers, who created the fan-based program to help out the young ballplayers, and discussed how it all works, and what we can do to help. The current world events might make it hard for some of you to help out, but if you’ve got a bit of financial security, please consider pitching in.
1. Tell me a little bit about the adopt a MiLB player program, how it works, how it came about, etc.
MR: Adopt a MiLB player is a place where minor leaguers in need can go to be matched up with a fan sponsor who’s willing to help. Adopting or “sponsoring” can consist of sending care packages, gift cards, $$, or gear/equipment—whatever the player needs.
This initiative came about after my father, Scott Rivers, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had surgery to remove it and we thought it was over... Until they tested his lymp nodes at surgery time and it came back positive—so my dad’s cancer had already spread. This news came in the first week of February. Times were rough and I needed a win! I needed to feel good about something. At the same time, former Twins minor leaguer Todd van Steensel was posting minor league stories on his twitter account about just how bad things were. Hes now in the Northern League (Indy Bal)l with Fargo. I asked if I could help him, so I venmo’d $25. It felt great, so I said “why not do more?” I asked if he could give me a couple names from the Twins org I could help too. After that I figured maybe I should make a twitter handle and see if others want to help. Five weeks later, we’ve helped 162 players get sponsors.
2. Tell us a little bit about some of the players you have been involved with so far, and how your program has impacted their lives
MR: Well, some players want to remain private so I’ll just say this: we have helped 162 players so far, specifically 34 Minnesota Twins. We have also helped five indy ball players because why not! Our general fundraiser has given cash grants to two players with special cases. One is a guy who’s a minor league free agent, coming off lat muscle surgery eight months ago . He has a wife who is now eight months pregnant with their first kid. He has had to take weeks off work at a time to go to Florida and throw for teams. This has put them behind on bills. The second player is a minor-leaguer who was recently traded, split from his sons mother, and therefore he has had to use half his month’s paycheck just for childcare! If he didn’t have a host family to live with, then what does he have left? Both were super grateful, one player saying that had we not helped him, he wouldn’t have been able to pursue professional baseball anymore.
3. What would you like to see changed about the structure of baseball in order to make the services you provide unnecessary? What are you doing to bring about that reality, and how can we help?
MR: What I’d like is for MLB baseball to stop acting like they cant afford to pay guys, and pay MiLB players living wages. That way we wouldn’t need to do this. How we change this is make our initiative so big the MLB owners HAVE to notice this and maybe get a wake up call. You can help by helping us grow. More followers means more sponsors, more donations, and more players helped—which turns into more players recruited
4. With the season at-best delayed two weeks, that’s two more weeks without a pay check for minor league players. Have you heard anything about how they are being impacted by this news? Obviously coronavirus is a big deal, but so is not getting paid.
The corona virus has no doubt impacted things! A couple more weeks of no pay, international players will be deciding whether to go home or stay with zero resources. This makes what we are doing, especially now even more important and needed.
Here are a couple of stories from players illustrating the impact.
5. If Twins fans want to get involved in helping out minor leaguers, how can they do so?
MR: Twins fans, and just baseball fans in general, can help out a couple ways. Follow us and help us increase our numbers. Become a sponsor and change the life of a player a little bit at a time. Donate to our general donation site which goes to those special cases I talked about.
Ed note: The general donation site is connected to “More than Baseball” a registered 501(c)3 organization with the mission of making sure MiLB players have appropriate food, housing, and equipment. They have some partners that are pretty well-known throughout the baseball world.
If you’re curious about some more player stories, or more about how the whole thing works, here is a tweet thread that sums it up pretty well.
Adopt a MiLB player! Matching players with fan sponsors who provide Care packages, gift cards, equipment, etc throughout the season! Follow us and DM us to be a sponsor/sponsored. We have already helped 120 different players! See how it works and player appreciation posts below⬇️ pic.twitter.com/6ZcSSiVDYu— Adopt a MiLB player(Not affiliated with milb) (@adoptmilbplayer) March 10, 2020
I want to thank Michael again for his time in answering some questions, and you can find him on Twitter and instagram at @adoptmilbplayer. His answers have been edited slightly for grammar/clarity, but any remaining mistakes are mine.