Drayer: All MLB teams each pledge $1 million to help ballpark employees; Mariners expect to donate more

Mar 17, 2020, 3:48 PM
Mariners, T-Mobile Park gate...
It's unknown when the Mariners will be free to return to T-Mobile Park to play games. (Getty)

On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced that all 30 teams would be pledging $1 million to help ballpark employees that will be affected by the delay of the start to the baseball season. The Mariners expect to donate more.

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“These are high anxiety times in our community, our country. Let’s release some of their anxiety,” Mariners CEO Kevin Mather said on a conference call with the media.

Seating hosts, ticket takers, the cleaning crew, security, retail employees and concession workers – in total, the Mariners employ around 1,100 hourly event staff, all who would have received their first paycheck April 15. Because of the early cancellation of the opening series at T-Mobile Park, the Mariners were already at work looking for ways to help that group when the entire baseball season was postponed. Being ahead of the unfortunate curve, other teams have been in contact with Mather to see what the Mariners were doing.

The programs will vary from team to team but the Mariners are in the process of setting up an employee disaster relief fund that will be housed under the Mariners Care 501.c organization. That will enable the club to issue needs-based grants while still keeping the employees eligible for unemployment insurance.

“Without hesitation, everyone stepped up and said we have to do the right thing for our community. It’s not about baseball right now,” said Mather, while inviting others to contribute. “We are hoping other employees, players, season ticket holders, sponsors, we are hoping a whole lot of people take this as an opportunity to do the right thing for our community and help with some really troubling times for our valuable hourly employees.”

The expectation is that the $1 million is just a start.

“We are expecting this will gain momentum and it is the right thing to do,” said Mather. “This community has always been so generous and our ownership group has always been so generous that we think this will be, it’s seed money for a lack of a better word. Let’s hope we are playing baseball in the middle of May and the million is ample, but if it isn’t, people in this community are hurting. We have been very blessed both in the front office and our ownership group, and in this community there’s a lot of blessings. Let’s share it and make sure we take care of each other.”

Another group that is hurting are the minor league players across the game who have not received a paycheck since last August. Mather confirmed that this is an issue that is front and center in the ongoing discussions between the Commissioners Office and the MLBPA.

“We have got to do something for the minor league players,” Mather said. “I don’t know what the answer is but we are well aware of the issue and we are working quickly as a league as to what we are going to do.”

It is good, but not surprising to see the Mariners step up and do the right thing with their event staff. It is not unusual at all to see Mather – and former Mariners CEO Chuck Armstrong before him – quite often making the rounds at the park talking with guards, seating hosts and other employees they may run into. A lot of these people have worked at the park for many years. There are grandparents, teachers, husbands and wives teams, and developmentally and physically disabled team members among the staff, all familiar faces that we see every day when we come to the park.

“They’re fans,” said Mather when asked what he takes away from those interactions. “Sometimes it’s a tough conversation, they are fans and they are passionate. They really feel they are a part of the Mariners family. That’s why this decision was so easy. These are Mariners employees, Mariners family and we are going to take care of our family.”

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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Drayer: All MLB teams each pledge $1 million to help ballpark employees; Mariners expect to donate more