Like most aspiring young pitchers, Peter Bayer hoped to see his name in Sports Illustrated someday. Just not in this way. Not right now.
The right-hander is a native of Parker and a product of Regis High School. Having been drafted out of Cal Poly Pomona in June 2016, he’s set to enter his fifth year in professional baseball. He’s slowly worked his way up the ladder of minor league baseball, and was in spring training camp with the Oakland A's this month before the spread of coronavirus shut down professional baseball…and every other American sport.
Bayer was having a very good camp, and his prospects for a future in the big leagues are very bright. Once the professional baseball season actually starts, he’ll likely begin the year with the A’s Double A affiliate in Midland, Texas, with a chance to impress and move up. Yet nothing is certain in these uncertain times. When the A's sent their minor-leaguers home because of virus concerns, they did so with very little warning and few instructions.
“It was literally just like, ‘We’re going to give you travel money and send you home,’” Bayer recalls. “That’s pretty much all we heard. They told us we were pretty much on our own and they’d be emailing us updates whenever we can get them. Actually, it’s been about once a day we’ve been getting emails. Just some general updates on the situation, but we just have to stay in shape on our own and be on call.”
All that leads Bayer to believe that professional baseball is in for a very long delay.
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“We don’t have any idea what the [minor league] season is going to look like,” he says. “It could be a short season — like low-level minor leagues have — where we start in June, but chances are that might not even happen, because they might not even be able to do anything until the beginning of July now. We just have to wait and see. At what point do you just say we aren’t even going to play a season now?
“Obviously, things change, and right now I have to take it day by day and do what I can to stay ready for whenever this does end.”
But that's down the road. Right now, while professional sports are on lockdown, Bayer’s road leads elsewhere...potentially to your front door.
Even though he’s a professional athlete, Bayer — and his fellow minor league players — certainly isn't paid like it. He took home just over $6,000 from his baseball paychecks in 2019, and got his last check from the A's in August. Once spring training begins, minor-leaguers get some meal money and a free place to sleep; otherwise, they’re on their own money-wise until the season starts and their meager paychecks begin coming every two weeks. But for Bayer, the season has yet to start.
Bayer long ago decided that he needed a side hustle — a way to earn some extra money. He's spent the off-season working with former Rockies pitcher Jason Hirsh at the FAST baseball training facility in Denver and does consulting and online work for Driveline Baseball, a national company that uses the latest data and performance-enhancing research to train hitters and pitchers. He usually earns more during the off-season than he does in-season.
Reporting to spring training in Mesa, Arizona, takes him away from those gigs, so this spring Bayer began delivering for DoorDash during his off hours, even during camp. That’s what led to the unexpected attention from Sports Illustrated.
“When spring training started this year, I started working for DoorDash because I knew I’d have a decent amount of time to kill and I wanted to make some money before the season started,” Bayer explains. “I’d actually been doing it long before [the coronavirus] stuff started happening. I’ve been doing it for a while. It was like a two-to-three-times-a-week thing for three hours or so every night.”
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The financial plight of minor-league players is the subject of much hand-wringing and even a lawsuit that’s expected to finally be heard this year. That lack of income has only been exacerbated by the shutdown and the uncertainty that surrounds it.
Now that he’s back home in the Denver area for the foreseeable future, Bayer’s employment situation is up in the air. The FAST facility was closed in accordance with Governor Jared Polis's stay-at-home issue. And DoorDash has limited hiring capacity right now, with Polis loosening the rules for restaurant employees to deliver.
“It’s kind of wait-and-see,” Bayer says. "Right now I'm doing DoorDash on the weekends and hoping that Minor League Baseball will start paying us. Then I will only have to do that a couple of times a week. If not, I'm going to have to look into something full-time."
But the next time he makes Sports Illustrated, he hopes it's for baseball.