WEST MICHIGAN — A sport rooted in tradition is breaking free from the mold.
Major League Baseball announced it will require teams to provide housing for minor league players as early as next year.
A huge move, but it won’t have much of an impact on the West Michigan Whitecaps.
That’s because those players have received housing help since the team’s inception in 1994.
Until now, living the major league dream has been somewhat of a nightmare for minor leaguers at all levels of the game.
“They’re doing 4 or 5 guys to an apartment," said Whitecaps Vice President and General Manager Jim Jarecki. "Blow up mattresses, sometimes not even any beds. They expect these guys to perform at their highest level.”
An expectation not exactly met with compensation.
On average, minor leaguers make just $15,000 a season.
The word 'struggle' has almost become synonymous with that level of the game.
But Major League Baseball officials want to change that narrative, announcing Sunday it will now require teams to provide housing for minor leaguers starting next year.
“I think overall it is one heck of a great announcement that Major League Baseball is doing," Jarecki said.
The plan is still in its early stages.
Right now, it’s unclear if teams will offer stipends or provide the housing themselves.
Jarecki said housing help is nothing new to his players, thanks to the Keep-A-Cap program.
“The guys have had houses throughout this area. Families that have been involved with us almost since day one, that they provide the housing for and the players love it.”
The program began when the team was created in 1994.
Since then, up to 40 West Michigan families have opened up their homes to about 95% of all Whitecaps players, including big names you might recognize, like former Detroit Tigers’ star Nick Castellanos.
Forming a relationship that goes beyond baseball.
“Families get invited to weddings of the player, they get Christmas cards," Jarecki said. "That’s what we are all about here in West Michigan. Fortunately, we’ve not had to deal with the fact of these guys going into apartments and trying to find housing and scrambling to find housing.”
Even though more help is on the way, Jarecki says the Keep-A-Cap program is here to stay.