Trey Cabbage had just finished the normal daily meeting that the Minnesota Twins minor leaguers have during Spring Training and was relaxing by the pool with some of his teammates. The date was March 12, and Cabbage and his teammates were preparing for an intersquad game that was set for the next day.
Then, with a single text, their lives changed.
Sending out a mass text, the Twins held an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. with all their players about the COVID-19 outbreak, relaying to them that the intersquad game was off for the next day, and they would try and come back on Saturday and regroup.
“It was a really vague meeting on that day,” Cabbage said.
Before having time to even mentally process everything, Cabbage and his teammates were then sent another text the next day telling them to get everything out of the clubhouse and to start making travel plans to return home.
Cabbage, who just a day before was enjoying some sun after a tough workout, packed his bags to head back to Blaine wondering what the next steps would be for his baseball season and career.
“It wasn’t one of those things where we might have an idea in the next days of what’s going to happen and for us to continue to work out and stuff and then go home in a few days,” Cabbage said. “It was like drop of the hat ‘we’re going to talk to you,’ and then drop of the hat again ‘come get your stuff, we have to get out of here.’”
As minor leaguers quickly broke camp, one of the biggest questions for them was whether or not they would still be paid and how the payment process would work. Understanding that concern, Major League Baseball quickly stepped up to the plate.
On March 19, MLB announced that all minor league players would receive allowances from teams through April 8. That allowance was extended on Tuesday so that players continue to receive those allowances and health benefits through May 31 or the minor league opening day, whichever comes first.
With this allowance, players will receive $400 per week from their respected teams beginning when opening day was scheduled. That number is a raise from what they usually get during the spring, around $100-$200 a week.
“We’re actually making more with this allowance than normal,” Cabbage said. “That’s up about $150 for me. They had actually already upscaled the pay this year even if the regular season would have started on time. Each level got a bump. So, this $400 a week is better and the salary on all levels would have been better.”
Even with the raise in salary, minor leaguers are still on the low-end of the totem pole when it comes to their pay. The average starting pay for a minor leaguer in baseball is $1,100 per month before taxes and clubhouse fees, and they have to find their own housing in the area as well. With housing few and far in some minor league towns, players often go in together for apartments, even fitting five to six people in a two-bedroom apartment.
That minor league salary is a sharp contrast from the major leagues where the minimum salary is $84,000 per month. That number, as well as their passion, is what keeps players who are so close to making it to the big leagues going. But now, those players won’t have that opportunity for the time being, instead getting just the minor league allowance of $400 per week and putting their dreams put on hold.
“The goal is to get up there, and you never wish any bad on anybody,” Cabbage said. “Now, with everything being scrunched and suspended, opportunity went down because there’s less changes. It’s kind of hard to chew on that.”
Cabbage has also had to find different ways and places to workout at to stay in shape during this time. With gyms closed due to the safer in-home order from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Cabbage has been training at and around his house. Cabbage is also teaming up with other professional players in the area, taking live batting practice once a week.
“I have a home gym that has basically everything I need in my basement,” Cabbage said. “And I have a cage that I hit in close to my house. A guy I worked for in high school has a cage that I use.”
A standout at Grainger high school, Cabbage was the number 72 draft prospect by MLB.com by his senior season in 2015. Cabbage originally signed to play at the University of Tennessee but decided to go pro after being selected in the fourth round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Twins. Cabbage was the third Grainger County native ever selected in the draft.
“I didn’t really want to go and play college baseball,” Cabbage said. “That’s obviously the goal for a lot of people, but I was just so ready to go play baseball professionally, especially since the opportunity presented itself. Tennessee was a great opportunity but was a backup plan. Once the Twins matched the offer we had in mind, I was ready to play.”
Since his arrival in the Twins organization, Cabbage has rotated between rookie ball, Single-A and Single-A advanced. Cabbage broke out in 2018, playing for the Cedar Rapids Kernels where he hit eight home runs and knocked in 45 RBIs.
Cabbage started the 2019 season in Cedar Rapids again, hitting .313 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in the first 18 games. Shortly after, Cabbage was called up to the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins Single-A advanced team. He remained there for the rest of the season, hitting nine home runs and knocking in 37 runs and putting up a slugging percentage of .477.
“I credit a lot of the success these last two years to mentally growing up and having a better approach,” Cabbage said. “I still have a long way to go, but it was just one of those things to not get too antsy or jumpy and being more picky with what I swing at in certain counts.”
Now though, the steady improvement is halted by the COVID-19 outbreak and the suspension of the season. Cabbage was in line to be in Double-A this season with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Southern League. The Blue Wahoos were set to play the Tennessee Smokies August 18-22 in Kodak, allowing Cabbage’s family and friends a chance to see him play so close to home.
However, for now, that may just be a dream.