Blue Jays CEO hopeful as MLB season set to begin

Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro is optimistic about the team's prospects as it heads into the new season.

Mark Shapiro says, 'objectively,' the Blue Jays are championship contenders this year

Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. celebrates his walk-off homer to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 on Tuesday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro is optimistic about the team's prospects as it heads into the new season. 

Shapiro, like a proud dad, gushes about Vladimir "Vladdy" Guerrero Jr., 20 and Bo Bichette, 19, two of the brightest prospects in the Blue Jays' system. 

Coming off of Tuesday's storybook ending game, in which the Blue Jays beat the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 in Montreal, Shapiro says the future looks bright.

The Jays open their season on Thursday at the Rogers Centre against the New York Yankees (3:30 p.m. ET).

"It's so rare to have two guys that are in the top 10 prospects in all of Major League Baseball in one organization," he said on Wednesday in an interview on CBC's Metro Morning

Shortstop Bichette was waiting for Guerrero Jr. as he crossed the plate on Tuesday night at Olympic Stadium in Montreal in an iconic moment of Guerrero Jr.'s young career. 

He's the son of Montreal Expos legend Vladimir Guerrero and had just hit a walk-off home run while wearing his father's number in the stadium where he used to play. 
President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays stopped by the Metro Morning studio Wednesday to talk about his hopes for the team, the stadium and the fans. (CBC )

Shapiro says it's moments like these that keep fan excitement and expectations high.

Asked if he expects to keep "Vladdy" after such a career-making moment, he replied:  "I'll leave that up to Vladdy." 

Hoping for 'meaningful games'

Shapiro is hoping that the Blue Jays play more of these "meaningful games" through to September, play well in the playoffs in October and bring the World Series trophy back to Canada. 

It'll also take some luck if the teams wants to beat the American League East heavy hitters, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

"It's going to take probably some unforeseen adversity from those two teams," he said. 

"There are probably four teams that separate themselves in the American League. My former team, the Indians, the Astros — the reigning world champions, the Yankees and the Red Sox. Two of those teams will be better than we think, one or two of them will be worse than we think."

Game Wrap: Guerrero Jr. walk-off homer lifts Blue Jays over Cardinals

4 years ago
Duration 1:25
Toronto blanks St. Louis 1-0 in final game of pre-season. 1:25

But he says, "objectively," the Blue Jays are championship contenders, thanks to having one of the best rotations in the league and to its pitching staff. 

Development process nurtures the team

The key to the team's longevity, as Shapiro sees it, is all about nurturing the next generation of Blue Jays. 

"We draft 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds," he said explaining its eight-tier development process. 

"They gradually work their way up. In one or two per cent of cases, you got a person like Vladdy that will go through at an accelerated pace, but in most cases that's three- or five-year period."

This is how the Blue Jays rebuild the system without rebuilding the team, he said. 

Hopes to improve fan experience 

Shapiro said he has hopes of updating the fan experience at the Rogers Centre as well. 

"Right now, what we have is a very 1980s, 90s fan experience. It's largely one experience, whether you're in the 500 level of the stadium or the 100 level. The only difference is the vantage point." 

"We feel fortunate to be here." - Mark Shapiro, President & CEO, Toronto Blue Jays

The Rogers Centre can't help that it's a large cement structure, but Shapiro isn't pitching any changes to the stadium. He said he would like to see the fan experience improve, with the stadium catering to families by keeping restless children busy.

"In a perfect world, the family that wants to enjoy the game has a great experience where their kids can do arts and crafts, do Virtual Reality games, [while] their parents, who want to see the game, can still see the field."

It takes "re-envisioning" he said, which according to his plan includes increasing the amount of premium seating (The Rogers Centre has one of the fewest in the league) for corporate fans.  

"It's a question of timing and funding. It's with ownership now."

Fortunate to be in Toronto

On a personal level, Shapiro says he and his family are proud to call Toronto home, which it sees as a sanctuary from the current political climate south of the border. 

"I've got a 15 year-old son who is a news junkie, and in a conversation with me last night, driving home from baseball practice, [he said] just how appreciative he is to be here." 

Shapiro is American and his children were born in Cleveland, a city they are proud to call their hometown, but from a gun-control perspective, he said Canada is much more in tune with who they are as a family. 

"We feel fortunate to be here."