Phillies officials are pushing back on recent claims made by disgruntled minor leaguers and an advocacy group that the organization didn’t try as hard as it could to find non-hotel accommodations for players in their home cities this season.
Although the Phillies conceded that players are living in hotels at every level of the farm system, they maintain that the arrangement is necessary because of the limited availability of apartment-style housing, particularly in the greater Reading (double A), Lakewood, N.J. (high A), and Clearwater, Fla. (low A) areas.
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Three minor leaguers who spoke to The Inquirer but requested anonymity to avoid repercussions said several players at multiple levels of the farm system have conducted independent online searches that turned up apartment-style housing. Team officials countered that the quantity of available properties doesn’t satisfy 30-plus players at each of their four full-season affiliates, and the Phillies are unwilling to put some players in apartments and others in hotels.
“Absolutely, if you go online right now, you can probably find an apartment complex, whether it would be in Reading or in Wyomissing, that has an apartment or two apartments even,” Reading general manager Scott Hunsicker said by phone. “The problem that we ran into, and that we’ll probably continue to run into, is while there may be an apartment complex available right now, it doesn’t mean it was available in April. And if it was, it may have only been one apartment or two apartments at that place. We couldn’t even find four or five places that had three or four [units] each.”
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Housing for minor leaguers has been an issue for years. In the fall, Major League Baseball directed all teams to find — and pay for — players’ accommodations at home, preferably in condos or apartments but allowing for hotel usage if other options are unavailable. While several teams have placed some of their affiliates in hotels, Advocates for Minor Leaguers has listed the Phillies as the only one that is utilizing hotels at every level of the farm system, one of the loopholes in the MLB policy that it hopes to close.
“The situation with the Philadelphia Phillies brings the problems with the new minor league housing policy into stark relief,” Advocates executive director Harry Marino said.
Phillies general manager Sam Fuld conceded that the situation is “less than ideal” and said the team would continue to try to make improvements to its housing policy in future years.
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But team officials also noted that triple A players are staying in a “condo-style” extended-stay property in Allentown that features individual bedrooms, living rooms, and a full kitchen. And although the Phillies’ housing plan prohibits overnight guests in the double-occupancy rooms that have been provided for most players at Reading, Jersey Shore, and Clearwater, married and single-parent players at every minor-league level do receive single rooms. The Phillies estimated that they have more than 30 players living in single-family units.
Further, while double A players have had to check out of a team hotel after homestands and check back in upon returning from road trips, the Phillies noted that they will be on a continuous stay plan from June through the end of the season. The early-season inconvenience was the result of a lack of uninterrupted availability at any area hotels, according to Hunsicker. While one player said Reading players had to take their belongings on the road, Hunsicker said storage is provided at FirstEnergy Stadium while the team is away.
Hunsicker outlined the process that led to players being put up in hotels in the greater Reading area. He said the organization contacted five or six apartment complexes, none of which could accommodate more than a few players for a six-month term. Three extended-stay hotels had availability for only “a random week here or there.” The third option was regular hotels.
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While several players at multiple levels of the farm system expressed frustration with the housing plan, Hunsicker said few complaints have been registered with him.
“I’m sure at some point there was a conversation [among players] about, ‘Hey, I thought we were getting apartments,’” Hunsicker said. “Yeah, well, we can’t find enough apartments, so we’re putting you in these nice hotels. There’s no question that conversation took place. But at no point did anyone push back to us and say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t want to do that.’ It just didn’t occur here.”