“A step in the right direction.”
That’s how Brewers outfield prospect Garrett Mitchell described one of the biggest changes in Minor League Baseball this season. In November, MLB announced a new policy whereby organizations are responsible for providing housing to the majority of players in their systems.
The logistical task fell to Brewers senior manager of baseball administration Mark Mueller, who started making calls immediately after MLB’s memo landed in the Brewers’ inbox. It’s a difficult challenge on its face, made more difficult by the tight housing market across the country, said Brewers vice president of Minor League operations Tom Flanagan.
“Over the years we’ve had experience finding furnished apartments for players in the Phoenix area for our extended spring training and Rookie league players, so being able to expand that to all four full-season clubs this season is something we’re excited about,” Flanagan said. “It’s going to be a big improvement to the way they live their lives off the field. It takes a huge headache off of their plate.”
The Brewers secured corporate housing in each of their Minor League cities, easing the financial burden for players who live paycheck to paycheck and the logistical burden for players moving from level to level on short notice during a season.
At least for this year, the Brewers are continuing to place some players with host families in Appleton, home of the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Flanagan said the club is soliciting feedback from players and will determine whether or not to continue this tradition.
But most players throughout the system are living in two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments. The Brewers’ policy, Flanagan said, is one player per room.
“All the player has to do is take his belongings, and we have a cleaning crew follow him to get the apartment ready for the player who is taking his place,” Flanagan said. “When he arrives in a new city, we get him situated with a teammate in a corporate assignment there. Mark [Mueller] and a number of staff worked really hard to put it in place.”
Flanagan said the new policy fits in with other improvements in recent seasons, including a nutrition program that provides at least two healthy meals at the ballpark for players. The reorganization in the Minors has also made travel less of a burden because series are longer and there are more off-days for travel, making all-night bus trips less regular.
“It’s night and day from days gone by,” Flanagan said. “I think things are making a major turn. Guys can focus on the field and have that peace of mind off the field.”
Mitchell, the Brewers’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2020 and MLB Pipeline’s third-ranked Milwaukee prospect, entered the season eager for improvements. He is Type 1 Diabetic, meaning he must take extra care to get proper nutrition and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Last season — his first experience of Minor League Baseball — was challenging at times.
Having a proper apartment is a plus.
“Housing is fine,” Mitchell reported this weekend from Double-A Biloxi, where the Shuckers were hosting the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in a five-game series. “It could be better, but having housing paid for is a step in the right direction.”