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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Commissioner Rob Manfred says a provision in government spending legislation that stripped minor league players the protection of federal minimum wage laws will ensure that a lot of players in the low minors will get a raise this year.

Manfred said some players will get raises in order to meet the requirements of the statute.

“So that’s a good thing for those players. We’ve said from the beginning that minor league baseball was never intended to be covered by the minimum wage laws,” Manfred said Thursday, before the World Series champion Houston Astros opened their season in Texas.

The “Save America’s Pastime Act” included on page 1,967 of the $1.3 trillion spending bill signed by President Trump last week appears to pre-empt a lawsuit filed four years ago in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by three players alleging Major League Baseball and its teams violate the Fair Labor Standards Act and state minimum wage and overtime requirements for a work week they estimated at 50-to-60 hours.

“We think we’re going to prevail on that litigation, so overall I see the legislation as a benefit to players,” Manfred said.

Manfred questioned how overtime could be determined for a minor league player. He questioned if a player taking extra batting practice on his own or working out at the gym would count as working hours.

The commissioner was then asked about what players do during the offseason to maintain themselves and prepare for new seasons.

“You get paid for the part of the year when you work in the season,” Manfred said. “The way we think about it is that we provide playing opportunities for minor league players. It’s a six-month job.”

The language in the spending bill approved last week is nearly identical to a stand-alone bill introduced in 2016 by Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois. At the time, the pair said the exemption from minimum wage laws was necessary because without it, minor leagues would have to make cuts that could imperil teams and hurt the economy in cities where they play.

Also as part of the commissioner’s visit to Texas on opening day:

— After a slow free agent market this offseason, there were a flurry of signings late in spring training. Manfred said the important point is that people found jobs.

“Players may have signed a little later than they wanted, they didn’t happen in the calendar really it usually does, some players probably didn’t get what their agents told them that they were going to get,” he said. “But that’s the market. Some markets go up, markets go down, and you see that every day.”

— On pace of play rule changes and mound visits:

“We’re going to have mound visits up on the board, so I don’t have to count them manually,” he said. “Look, I’m very interested in how’s it’s going to play out. … On one side, you want to make sure that you don’t have any disruption in terms of how the game is played. But on the other, we want to make some progress on what we think is a really important issue for the game.”

— Manfred was part of the ceremonial first pitch ceremony, when two youngsters who participate in programs at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy threw pitches. There was a ribbon-cutting at the Mercy Street Sports Complex in December, and Manfred toured the facility earlier Thursday.

“I was blown away by the academy,” he said. “I’ve been to all of them, and as the years have gone by each one seems to get a little better, and this one seems to the penultimate.”

— At an event in San Antonio earlier this week, Manfred was asked about expansion in general, and the Alamo city in particular.

“What I said and what I have been saying is that we need to get Tampa and Oakland resolved before we bite expansion off,” Manfred said Thursday, referring to the teams seeking new ballparks. “I’m actually optimistic that both clubs will figure it out in the markets where they are today, and once that’s done, there are a lot of advantages for the game to get to 32.”

He said that include scheduling and a “real opportunity” to think about how teams are aligned geographically and the playoff format.


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