After the official interview was over but before Trevor May was swarmed by more than 100 kids from a Best Buy Geek Squad technology camp Tuesday in St. Paul, I had the chance to just chat informally with the Twins pitcher. In the midst of that, he mentioned that he had gotten engaged over the All-Star Break. I offered sincere congratulations to the 25-year-old right-hander and then a query: How many players on the Twins are married or engaged?
Before May could answer, I guessed that it was about 50 percent. (It’s rude to answer your own question, I know). To my surprise, though, May replied that virtually everyone on the team was either married or engaged. His ballpark estimate was 90-95 percent; a subsequent check-in with the Twins puts the number a little lower than that, but a full 80 percent (20 of the players on the 25-man roster, at least as of earlier this week before roster shuffling) are confirmed to be married or engaged.
It struck me as a high number; frustratingly, I really have nothing to compare it to in terms of other data out there. A Google search of “Percentage of Major League Baseball players who are married” reveals very little (though related searches tell us that the divorce rate for pro athletes is sky-high, a subject for another time I suppose).
So instead, I started thinking about it in a different way: I could find out through research if the number of Twins players who are married or engaged is high within MLB, but what I know right now is that it’s high within their particular age group.
According to Pew Research Data about millennials, defined within the course of their particular research as those aged 18-32, only 26 percent of people in that age group are married. (Side note: It’s agonizingly frustrating how many different definitions there are of the age ranges of millennials).
On the Twins roster as of Tuesday, there were only two players who didn’t fit within that age group: Blaine Boyer (34) and Torii Hunter (40). That means 18 of the 23 millennials (again, defined as between 18 and 32 for these purposes) are married or engaged. That’s 78 percent, or three times the number of the general population in that age group who are married, per the Pew data.
It would be dangerous to draw too many hard conclusions from this because 1) 18 of 23 is such a small sample size, 2) The Twins players might not only be outliers within the millennial group but outliers within MLB and 3) It stands to reason that baseball players might be more attractive mates than the general population.
It is also worth noting that while 18-32 is the range we’re dealing with overall, nobody on the Twins is younger than 22 and that many of the married or engaged Twins players are in the 28-32 range. If the Pew survey was 22 to 32-year-olds across the country or even 28-32, the number would almost certainly be significantly higher than 26 percent. But it’s also worth noting that it wouldn’t come close to 78 percent and, for what it’s worth, the two youngest Twins players as of Tuesday (Miguel Sano, 22, and Eddie Rosario, 23) both fall into the married or engaged category per the information provided by the Twins.
Regardless of caveats, the numbers can lead us to some interesting discussion points about millennials and marriage.
It stands to reason that if I asked most Twins players why they got married or engaged, the responses would be in line with society as a whole: they fell in love, found someone they wanted to be with for the rest of their lives (including possibly starting a family) and marriage was the way they wanted to express those things in a permanent way.
But before we go painting millennials as a whole with a broad brush and suggest they are all just Tinder hook-up machines incapable of more meaningful relationships, we need to consider one key element in all of this: money.
Per the Pew data, this passage is striking: Most unmarried Millennials (69 percent) say they would like to marry, but many, especially those with lower levels of income and education, lack what they deem to be a necessary prerequisite—a solid economic foundation.
According to data from 2010, those under the age of 35 in the U.S. had a median income of $37,600. While I would guess the gradually improving economy has inched that upward recently, I’m still confident in saying it’s still at least 10 times less than even the major league minimum salary of $507,000 in 2015.
When the average wedding – just the beginning of marriage, mind you, before we even start talking about the cost of raising a family – is over $26,000, it becomes clear how daunting getting married can be. (Yes, you can get married for far less than that … and yes, some young couples get significant help to finance their weddings, but it still must be considered part of the impediment).
To be clear, too, none of this is a suggestion that millennials or anyone SHOULD be getting married. It’s a personal decision, and it’s often an evolving mindset. Even as someone who was in a committed relationship for much of my 20s, the idea of marriage seemed unnecessary to me … until a time came that it felt right. I was married at age 30.
The Pew data also shows how this has been a downward trend for generations, with the married 18-32 age group declining from 65 percent in 1960 to 48 percent in 1980 to 36 percent in 1997 (Gen X, my people) to 26 percent with the millennials.
Young people these days might not marry for many reasons. They might not believe in the idea but still might be in committed relationships … or they might be loving the single life, with the ever-expanding freedom and choices it brings … or they simply might not have found one person they could imagine being with forever, or at least haven’t met that person under the right time/place circumstances.
But even in the small sample size offered by Twins players, it’s hard to ignore the role money plays. Some Twins players like Joe Mauer (married, with twins) are guaranteed to make enough money that it could take several lifetimes to spend it; those at the minimum scale, while not guaranteed financial security forever, are making many times more than their peers in the same age group and are at least, for now, more than able financially to make the choice to get married.
For many others in that age group: Well, maybe it’s not so much an issue of “won’t” and much more an issue of “can’t.”