How a Mayo High School grad paved way for Minor League Baseball players to earn a living wage
Aaron Senne was one of the best high school baseball players Rochester had ever seen. 16 years after graduating from Mayo High School and nine years after retiring from his professional career, Senne is now in the settlement phase of a lawsuit against the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball for unfair wages he and other players received for their time as Minor League ball players.
DENVER — In June of 2013, Aaron Senne faced a tough decision: continue to play the game he loved in Minor League Baseball or walk away to ensure he could have a living wage.
Senne, a 2006 Rochester Mayo High School graduate, chose the latter.
He was ailing with an injury to his left arm most of that spring, limiting him to eight games with the Miami Marlins High Class A minor-league affiliate in Jupiter, Fla.
Now, nine years later Senne is in Denver, working as a data processor.
He is also helping athletes who were attempting to achieve the same baseball goals that he once had, but who like him, were struggling to make a living financially. Senne's eight-year lawsuit against Major League Baseball has entered the settlement phase.
“I was in a unique position once I was done playing and had made the decision to go back to grad school for these reasons, to really go back and fight for the current and future ballplayers that are still living under those unfair conditions and wages,” said Senne, who was an All-Big 12 Conference selection at the University of Missouri prior to his professional baseball career.
Senne’s lawsuit against the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball alleged the commissioner’s office, under the leadership of Bud Selig at the time, and individual team owners purposely suppressed the wages of minor league players. It further stated those wage suppressions violated federal and state wage laws in five states including California, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and New York.
The settlement in the case of Senne vs. the Office of Commissioner of Baseball was reached on May 10 of this year, eight years after it was originally filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.
The lawsuit was originally proposed as a class action when it was filed in 2014 by Senne and three other former players. It did not become a class action suit until 2019 after winning an appeal in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
When Senne retired from baseball, he realized his opportunities to earn income were far stronger than other players' chances were when they decided to hang up their cleats. He completed his undergraduate degree before being drafted by the then-Florida Marlins in 2010 and started his graduate degree while he was injured during the entire 2011 season.
“The lifestyle of Minor League Baseball, it's a drastic shift from what your expectations are,” said Senne. “I experienced the same pain points that the vast majority of minor leaguers go through in their day-to-day and it's hard to get by and make a living on the unfair wages that you're compensated with. When things didn't work out for me, I made the decision that it wasn't something that I could sustain any longer and I went back to grad school and moved on with my career elsewhere instead.”
Current Minor League Baseball minimum salaries include $400 weekly in rookie ball, $500 at Class A (both high and low A), $600 at Double-A and $700 at Triple-A, as reported by the Associated Press on July 29 of this year . When Senne filed the suit eight years ago, Triple-A players were earning an average of $537.50 per week while rookie ball players earned $275 per week.
Last month both the plaintiffs and defendants received preliminary approval from the court on the settlements for the case, which totals up to $185 million from Major League Baseball to the plaintiffs of the class action suit. After attorney fees each member of the class action suit is expected to receive $5,000 to $5,500.
Sometime in the fall, the members of the class action will receive a notice from attorneys on the settlement and their rights with final approval of the settlement expected to be heard in February 2023.
Former minor leaguer Garrett Broshius of law firm Korein Tillery in St. Louis is co-counsel for the class action lawsuit.
About 20,000 minor league players are expected to draw a check from this settlement, per Garrett Broshuis of Korein Tillery, a one-time minor leaguer and a lawyer for the plaintiffs. After lawyers' fees, more than $120 million is expected to go to players, pending court approval.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) July 15, 2022
“The notice should go out soon and it's just going to describe all the details about the settlement," Broshius said. "There's nothing they (class action members) really need to do until that. They should know that we fought for a long time for this and thankfully, things are starting to change for the better for the player."
The timing of the lawsuit settlement comes only a month before the MLB Players Association announced its intentions of wanting to represent Minor League players in its union. Although Senne has had no correspondence with the movement to unionize Minor League players, he said he is pleased to see some changes beginning to make things better for minor leaguers.
“I'd say over the past eight years, we've seen a lot of shifts in the public perception in regards to minor league lifestyle, how players are compensated and treated," he said. "That has, in my opinion, directly correlated to some of the changes that we've begun to see from specific organizations, now, obviously, Major League Baseball and the 30 owners coming to an agreement on this settlement.
"I would bucket any potential Minor League player unionization into that same realm that we've really moved the needle and made people aware of this problem, and now you're starting to see the results in a positive light, and we hope it continues."
Last Wednesday, Sept. 14, the arbitrator overseeing Minor League Baseball Players voting cards to become a part of the MLB Players Association confirmed there were more than 5,000 players voting to become represented by the union. The next step for Minor League players unionization is bargaining between the MLBPA and minor league players, with hope to have a deal in place by the start of the 2023 season.
For Senne, he can now look back fondly on the eight-year struggle to get former teammates on the diamond the pay they deserved from their playing days.
Senne's action will also ensure future waves of professional ballplayers can earn a living wage for playing the game they love, making the long road to the settlement all the more worthwhile for Senne and thousands of other minor league players.