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Will the MLB Lockout Affect this Season of Minor League Baseball?

By Jim Juliano, Member

In a normal baseball season, by this time we would be talking about pitchers, catchers, spring training, try-outs, and Opening Day. But this is not a normal baseball season.

As of December 2, 2021, Major League Baseball (MLB) locked out the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), and as of this writing on February 14, 2022, the two sides have reported only minimal progress toward resolving the labor dispute.

There is still time to resolve the lockout before Opening Day, but each passing day puts spring training and the related Minor League Baseball (MiLB) season in deeper jeopardy.

The large majority of MiLB players are not members of the MLBPA, so MiLB players are available for spring training and the MiLB season.  The MiLB owners and staff are preparing for the season, as they should be.  But there remain a number of unanswered questions leading to an MiLB-only spring training and season.

Moreover, as an effect of the new MiLB structure that converts the MiLB teams into franchisees of MLB, MLB has greater control of the facilities, operations, and player development aspects of MiLB while passing the costs of these requirements to the MiLB team owners.  A shortened or canceled MiLB 2022 season will diminish revenues that might otherwise have paid for these requirements.  Unlike the MLB clubs, which have significant alternate revenue streams, MiLB clubs depend almost entirely on revenue from selling tickets, concessions, sponsorships, advertising, and merchandise – all tied to attendance at live baseball games.

We will eventually have the answers to these questions, but time is getting short.

Jim Juliano is a Member with NGC who specializes in general counsel services to small and closely held businesses and public sector entities such as municipalities.  His practice includes business transactions, civil litigation, buy/sell agreements and real estate, labor, employment and related matters. Jim practices sports law and has spoken around the country on sports law issues and can be reached at: [email protected].