The 2016 baseball season witnessed the emergence of a young superstar by the name of Michael Fulmer. A right-hand pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Fulmer posted numbers that blew away fans, coaches and fellow major leaguers; his impressive season was rewarded with the American League Rookie of the Year Award. With a rookie season capped off by 11 wins, a 3.06 earned run average, 132 strikeouts and 159 innings pitched, many would expect the Rookie of the Year to enjoy an offseason filled with rest, golf with his teammates and a luxurious lifestyle in a newly purchased mansion. Yet, one who makes this assumption would be incorrect; Fulmer works for the Cyrus Wright Plumbing Company in Yukon, Oklahoma.
Fulmer is involved with the physical work for the company, such as using jackhammers and digging deep ditches. Fulmer has mentioned that a benefit of working as a plumber is the physical aspect of it. The physical work helps him to stay in shape before baseball-related offseason workouts begin.
What makes this situation even more peculiar is that in addition to his new Rookie of the Year hardware, Fulmer earned a rookie salary of $507,500, the league minimum. With a sizeable income like this, it is surprising to hear that Fulmer is still taking on his plumbing job.
In the previous years, one cannot blame Fulmer for working as a plumber during the offseason. As of this past year, players at the lowest level of the minor leagues only earn $1,100 a month and players at the highest level of affiliate ball earn $2,150 a month, according to CNN.
These salaries make minor leaguers among the lowest paid athletes in all of sports, therefore making a second job in the offseason understandable. This is especially the case for those minor leaguers who have to support families, since players of all ages can play in the minor leagues.
On the other hand, major league salaries have blown up over the years. The minimum salary for a major leaguer was $12,000 in 1970, which was not nearly enough money to support a family for a whole year.
Because of this, many major leaguers took on second jobs in the offseason. Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan—arguably the greatest pitcher of all time—supposedly worked as a gas station employee in the offseason when he was young. Had he been a player in today’s game, Ryan working a second job would be an irrational thought.
The base salary of $12,000 increased and became $30,000 by 1980, jumped to $100,000 by 1990, increased to $200,000 by the turn of the century and currently stands at $507,500. While the minimum salary stands at over a half a million, the average annual salary for a MLB player in general sits at $4,250,000 today.
It should also be taken into account that massive deals have been handed to the game’s superstars in recent years, citing Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s $35 million annual salary and Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton signing a 13-year, $325 million deal.
Fulmer’s decision to work as a plumber during the offseason perplexes many; they should recognize, however, that it demonstrates his character and his work ethic. Instead of living a lavish lifestyle as a major league award-winner, he chooses to keep himself busy and in shape by taking on this job in between seasons.