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Fundamentals: How the rookie leagues work: 2002 Star Tribune

Once drafted, Twins players head to the rookie league. If they're drafted out of high school they will usually -- but not always -- head to the Gulf Coast League (GCL), where they will spend the summer playing for the GCL Twins. If a player is drafted out of college or is an outstanding high school player, he will head to the Appalachian League to play for the Elizabethton Twins in Tennessee. These are the first of several minor leagues designed to help top prospects hone their skills.

Sometimes, a veteran ball player will drop to the minor leagues to develop skills or heal from an injury.

After rookie league, players will be sent to the low A level team in Quad Cities, the River Bandits. From there, they may advance to the high A team in Fort Myers, the Miracle. The Twins AA team is the New Britain (Conn.) Rock Cats, and the AAA team is the Edmonton (Alberta) Trappers.

Joe Mauer, chosen out of high school as baseball's No. 1 pick in 2001, skipped the GCL level and was sent to the Elizabethton Twins. His brother Jake, a college senior, also went to the ETwins, as the players call the team.

One noticeable difference between the minor leagues and the majors is the minor leagues' emphasis on player training and improvement.

Winning, in theory, carries less weight in the minor leagues than player development, though team owners and managers all want to have winning teams. But players who are dominating their league are moved up to a higher level team, which makes it tougher for teams to keep a winning record.

Another noticeable difference between the farm teams and the big leagues is the salary that each player earns. Rookies earn about $28 a day. First-year players earn $850 per month, and second year players earn $1,050 a month. The players may also have performance bonuses in the $1,000-5,000 range.

By comparison, Alex Rodriguez, the richest man in baseball, earns $122,465.75 a day. And, according to Forbes magazine, the average player in the majors earns more than $2 million a year, or about $5,479 a day. (Joe Mauer's situation is a bit different. Mauer began his pro career after signing a contract that pays $5.15 million over five years.)

Most rookie league players don't have money to spend on cars, toys and apartments. The clubs provide housing, even transportation to the stadium and other places around town. Just before the players arrive to the league in June, Mike Mains, Elizabethton Twins general manager, finds residents who will provide lodging for the players.

Many of the players are fatigued by mid-August because they were sent directly to the farm teams just after having ended their high school or college baseball careers. What the game lacks in quality of play at this level, it makes up for in players' excitement as they struggle to make a name for themselves.

Throughout the season, the major league clubs keep tabs on their prospects by sending scouts to watch the players. Everything each player does is watched -- by a coach, a scout, a manager. Reports on each player are written daily to send to the major league team.

About 40 of the best young Twins players will be invited to instructional league in Fort Myers after the regular season ends. The selected players get a two-week break, then head to Florida for six weeks of intensive training.