Vine Line EXTRA: Fake meat, real job
The following short piece and illustration ran in the December 2008 issue of Vine Line, in the “ShortStops” section. Subscribe or give a gift to your favorite Cubs fan today!
Not so for minor-leaguers, however. Minimum salary for first-year players is $1,100 a month during the season. For farmhands with no substantial signing bonuses, it’s lean times in the off-season.
Take Cubs reliever Michael Wuertz, for example, who originally was taken by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 1997 draft.
OK, OK, he did sign with the Cubs for a $200,000 bonus, but he wasn’t satisfied to sit on it, never knowing if that major-league dream would come true. Thus, during the 2001 off-season, he went and got a job at a little place near his parents’ home in Austin, Minn.
He went to the Mall of America to sell SPAM.
Yes, that canned food product with the jelly….
“It was probably the worst job I’ve ever had,” Wuertz laughed.
The canned pork/ham product has a loyal following, but don’t count Wuertz among them. He just manned a kiosk representing the SPAM Museum, which happened to be in Austin and where SPAM’s manufacturer, Hormel Foods, is based.
And so, for a month’s worth of work (which included other odd jobs like landscaping and caoching), Wuertz earned about $5,000. Three years later, Wuertz finally made his big-league debut. Now he’s in hog heaven, so to speak.
“Everybody’s been there, just doing odd jobs to make it through,” Wuertz said. “It’s something you have to do. The money in the minor leagues is hard to come by.”
Article by Michael Huang. Illustration by Josh Peters.