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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Meet the Ex-Pitcher Whose Fair-Pay Lawsuit Has Major League Baseball on the Defensive

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 7:00 AM

Garrett Broshuis earned less than minimum wage in his six years in the minors. Now the recent law school grad has has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball of violating federal wage laws. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Steve Truesdell
  • Garrett Broshuis earned less than minimum wage in his six years in the minors. Now the recent law school grad has has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball of violating federal wage laws.

Garrett Broshuis remembers heading from the diamond to the locker room back in April 2009 when his coach called him into the office. Broshuis' knees seemed to register the significance of the invite as quickly as his brain, causing the six-foot-two-inch pitcher to wobble awkwardly. In five years playing for the San Francisco Giants farm system, Broshuis knew it was never a good thing to be called into the coach's office, especially on the last day of spring training.

"I was basically told that I didn't have a future in the Giants organization," recalls the ex-athlete, who, as a pitcher for the University of Missouri-Columbia Tigers, went 11-0 his senior year, tying a school record. But the Giants didn't completely sever ties with Broshuis that day. Instead the organization gave him the option to ride out the season as a "filler," a sparring partner of sorts for guys who — unlike him — might actually have a shot at the bigs.

Broshuis decided to play on. For one, he wasn't quite ready to give up the dream he'd held since his days as a Little League star back in the small, southeastern Missouri town of Advance. Also, he needed his minor-league paycheck, even if what he earned was a pittance.

When the Giants scooped up Broshuis in the fifth round of the 2004 draft, the club threw in a handsome $160,000 signing bonus — an amount that would prove to be more than he'd ever earn in wages while toiling for the organization's minor-league affiliates. Throughout his entire six years within the Giants farm system, Broshuis figures his hourly pay was less than minimum wage.

In that final season playing for the Giants Double-A affiliate, the Connecticut Defenders, Broshuis spent long bus rides up and down the East Coast studying for the LSAT. Law school, he hoped, would offer him what baseball — the minors, anyway — could not: a career that could provide for him and his family. Moreover, law school might offer him a chance to right a wrong in minor-league paychecks.

Now, five years after he hung up his cleats, Broshuis has returned to baseball, albeit in a much different manner than before. Last March the newly minted attorney — just a year out of Saint Louis University School of Law — filed a first-of-its-kind class-action lawsuit against Major League Baseball, alleging that it is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act for routinely paying minor-league players less than minimum wage and denying them overtime wages.

"Since minor leaguers do not belong to a union, nothing has prevented [MLB] from artificially and illegally depressing minor-league wages," states the suit, which includes at least one player from all 30 major-league teams.

In baseball parlance, the legal claim is the equivalent of a 95-mph brushback pitch, and Bud Selig and others at the commissioner's office aren't the only ones who've taken note. In the past six months, scores of media outlets as diverse as the Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones have written about Broshuis and his David versus Goliath fight against MLB.

It's not exactly how the ex-ballplayer imagined he'd make a name for himself in the sport he loves, but it eventually may benefit the game more than any of his on-field accomplishments ever could and, if successful, might lead Broshuis to his ultimate goal of unionizing minor-league baseball.

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