Major League Baseball owners have not been shy about expressing their desire to cut down or eliminate the minor league system in baseball. Talks were heard even before the current pandemic we are in now, but it seems those owners are using the pandemic to begin to gut a system that gives players hope, gives fans joy and provides an opportunity for so many.

Close to 1,000 minor leaguers were cut at the end of last week, many fearing that they have played the last inning of their professional baseball career. Now, some of these cuts were going to be made regardless of the pandemic but there may have been more than anticipated due to the current situation.

Before the cuts began, the Oakland Athletics informed their minor leaguers that beginning June 1 they would no longer be receiving any money. All MLB teams agreed to pay their minor leaguers $400 a week in April and May, but now that has ended for members of the Athletics minor league organizations.

So far the Astros, Marlins, Twins, Padres, Royals and Mariners have stepped up to say that they are pledging to pay their minor leaguers through the end of August, which is when the season would normally end.

Nine more teams have pledged to pay their minor leaguers through June, extending the payments by a month. $400 a week may not sound like much for professional baseball players, but for some it was more than they were actually making. Minor league baseball players don’t do this for the money that’s for sure.

I am not sure why every single team cannot pay their minor leaguers through the end of the season. It would only cost them around $1 million to $2 million a month, and these owners are sitting on billionaire status. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

It is sad when David Price, who just got traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and hasn’t even played one inning for his team, has pledged to pay $1,000 for over 200 minor leaguers in the Dodgers system in the month of June. I applaud Price for this; he didn’t even want anyone to know about it. He made the organization promise not to tell anyone, but one of the players leaked it out. Doing the right thing and doing it without wanting the spotlight is admirable and something that does not happen much these days.

Back to the minor league system and its future. There are 160 affiliated teams in the minors and talks between MLB and the MiLB were not going well even before the pandemic started. MLB shortened the draft this year, and we may see that become the new normal, which would definitely see some minor league teams close shop because without teams signing the amount of players they have in the past there wont be a need for that amount of teams.

Minor league baseball has a special place in my heart. I grew up with my parents taking my brother and I to Richmond to watch the Braves play at The Diamond. It was such a special day when I knew I was going to watch the Braves play. We even went back as a family when we were older to watch the Flying Squirrels play, and it brought back so many memories.

Last summer my brother, dad and I went to watch the Carolina Mudcats play, and I brought my son along. Sitting at that game beside my son and helping him understand baseball and sitting alongside my brother and dad was a memory that I hope my son will remember as he gets older. That was a Class A-Advanced baseball team. I would hate to see teams like that disappear. Not only are they good for the community and help bring in revenue for smaller localities across the country, but they bring families together as well. There isn’t much better than sitting at a minor league baseball game eating hot dogs, hot pretzels and ice cream on a summer night.

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV