I spoke with the head groundskeeper for a minor league Class AA baseball team recently who’s troubled by his paltry pay — and rightly so.
Eric Campbell, the head groundskeeper for the Midland (Texas) RockHounds, says he makes $24,000 annually in addition to receiving living expenses to pay for his monthly rent. But the 29-year-old Campbell, while discontent, wasn’t complaining.
Campbell values his job.
Editor’s note: As of March 1, 2017, Tyler Lenz is the head groundskeeper of the Midland RockHounds. Campbell left the Rockhounds in September of 2014.
So let me complain for Campbell: His is a pitiful wage for someone in charge of a professional playing field in such a vibrant profession.
After speaking with Campbell, I wondered if his situation was possibly an isolated one. But after speaking with someone in the know, it’s clear to me that Campbell isn’t the only underpaid employee in minor league baseball, whether it’s a field manager or a front-office employee.
At the Sports Turf Managers Association’s annual conference and exhibition in January, I attended a seminar hosted by Larry DiVito, the head groundskeeper for the Minnesota Twins, who presented on, “What I’ve Learned … 19 Seasons in Professional Baseball.” After DiVito’s excellent talk, I asked him what he has learned about the pay structure in the minor leagues over the years.
I also told DiVito about Campbell’s salary. He wasn’t surprised.
Because sports are so popular in our culture, more people want to work in the business, DiVito explained. This isn’t good news for salaries, unless you’re a player, of course.
“General managers feel like they have an endless supply of labor,” DiVito told me. “With an oversupply of people wanting to work in sports, they can keep wages down.”
But that doesn’t make it right, especially when the same general managers are throwing around cash like Monopoly money to entice players with huge signing bonuses.
Campbell realizes he can help himself by trying to find a better paying job. He is, but it’s tough out there, he says, as people are staying put and the job market in professional sports is tight.
Meanwhile, professional baseball keeps getting richer, including at the minor league level. Attendance is up, merchandise sales are soaring and franchises are worth more than their owners ever imagined they would be.
The latest minor league stadiums – and there are a lot of them – are marvelous. They are magnets for crowds to come and enjoy “the experience,” which, by the way, includes gawking at the near-perfect fields.
There’s no excuse not to pay a professional wage to someone who deserves it, especially in professional baseball. Owners, general managers and anyone else in charge of the salary scale in professional sports better wake up and take care of the people that are more important to them than they give credit, including field managers.
There are two words to describe the practice of keeping down wages because they can: bush league.
Aylward is the former Editorial Director of SportsField Management.