Image credit: Mike Janes/Four Seam Images
Following his 19th round selection by the Rays in the 2018 draft out of Harvard, righthander Simon Rosenblum-Larson knew life in the minors might be difficult, but nothing too overwhelming. Then he arrived at short-season Hudson Valley and found himself sharing a room slightly larger than a prison cell, forced to use a small cot as a bed—which later collapsed under his 6’ 3” frame.
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“I had teammates drafted before me, I remember hearing stories about it,” said Rosenblum-Larson. “Going into it, you sort of don’t believe it (…) it was a shock to the system for sure.”
Rosenblum-Larson had signed with the Rays as a junior, giving him enough leverage to command an $85,000 (pre-tax) bonus. However, after expenses like housing, food, phone bill, and medication, Rosenblum-Larson’s regular paycheck was exhausted, and his bonus became necessary to cover the cost of living. He quickly realized that for players who signed for even less or were trying to support a family, conditions in the minors were simply untenable.
During the 2018 offseason, he linked up with fellow pros Jeremy Wolf and Slade Heathcott, both of whom had spoken out against poor MiLB working conditions. The three began discussions to start a fan-driven donation network, but eventually, those conversations evolved into a larger picture.
“As we got to talking, it was more and more clear that long-term something bigger needed to happen in the sport that was not just fans helping players—it was systemic change,” said Rosenblum-Larson. “We designed More Than Baseball to be almost like a community of ballplayers, and a network of support for ballplayers.”
More Than Baseball supports its members—minor league players in need. During the lost 2020 season, the organization raised money from MLB players and other sources to launch Minor League Player Grant Program. It provided over $1.3M in direct aid to over 1,300 MiLB players over that year when paychecks weren’t coming in.
“We provided players money for groceries, money for rent, money for training equipment—we gave them the support that no one else was giving them during the pandemic,” said Rosenblum-Larson.
The grassroots network created during the lost pandemic season by More Than Baseball was a significant factor in creating the MiLB Players Union in 2022. Those early conversations, connecting a workforce and uniting by a common cause, made a union push much more manageable.
It’s not uncommon for labor leaders in any industry to come under scrutiny. For Rosenblum-Larson, this consideration about drawing the ire of MLB regarding his career was an accepted risk.
“I very clearly understood the calculation there,” said Rosenblum-Larson. “We took very seriously the idea that change doesn’t happen by just falling in line.”
Rosenblum-Larson’s debut and first full MiLB campaigns brought on-field success, so much so that the Rays sent him to the 2019 Arizona Fall League. Following the lost 2020 MiLB season, he struggled with injuries throughout the 2021 campaign but entered 2022 ticketed for a possible return to Double-A. Six weeks after writing an April op-ed about working conditions in the minor leagues for the Washington Post, the Rays released him.
Rosenblum-Larson hasn’t closed the door on his playing career, as he’s still training and will hopefully audition for clubs during the offseason. He’s continuing his work with More Than Baseball and is at peace if his playing career has been left behind for other pursuits.
“In my own life, I was totally comfortable with the idea that if I was standing up for something I believed in, and I lost my job because of it, that’s something I can justify to myself until the day I die—and frankly I may have,” said Rosenblum-Larson.
On the latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm, ’ former Rays righthander Simon Rosenblum-Larson joins to talk about playing in the Ivy League, factors that go into missing bats, and the labor conditions of Minor League Baseball.