Since You Asked: Baseball bin berry berry good to me

Since so many major league baseball players come from other countries I am wondering what their visa status is, and what their income tax responsibility might be.

— Irene H., Medford

We're reminded of that great baseball player from the 1970s, Chico Escuela, who ended his storied career as sportscaster on "Saturday Night Live's" Weekend Update following a failed spring training comeback attempt with the Mets in 1979.

Nearly every spring a handful of players under contract to Major League Baseball organizations fail to arrive in time for the start of spring training because of visa issues. Sometimes it has to do with political issues, sometimes legal and sometimes other factors come into play.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, substantial changes were made in the way baseball players and other foreigners obtained visas. For some players the process was embarrassing because they had to admit they were several years older than what they had told the scouts who signed them.

Income tax has its own twist for professional athletes — both foreign and domestic. Everyone pays federal income tax, and every state in which players perform also gets a chunk of their earnings. Play a game in a certain state, you pay that state an income tax.

In Major League Baseball, the athlete is considered to be paid from the beginning of spring training to the end of the regular season — roughly 220 "duty" days. If the player earns a salary of $1 million, that number is divided by the 220 duty days and the player is considered to earn $4,545 per duty day.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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