Paul Beeston, former Blue Jays president, still a team fixture after 4 decades in baseball
'They've got their No. 1 cheerleader in me,' says 1st employee hired by team in 1976
Paul Beeston's old cigar boxes have been packed up and put away. The loads of paper that are packed in his filing cabinets are still a work in progress though.
The former president of the Toronto Blue Jays is old school and he hasn't changed since retiring last November.
No email, no laptop, no smartphone. Beeston keeps hard copies of files and uses his trusty landline for any verbal communication that's not done in person.
He still keeps an office on the third floor at Rogers Centre, with the offices of new president Mark Shapiro and new general manager Ross Atkins just down the hall.
Beeston comes and goes as he likes as an unofficial adviser. He makes sure that he doesn't interfere and is keen to help if asked for his thoughts or advice.
"They've got their No. 1 cheerleader in me. They've got their No. 1 sales person in me. They've got their No. 1 supporter in me," Beeston says. "And at the very end of the day I'm going to be there like I was last year encouraging everybody to win. Doing what I can do. Anything I can do to help us win, I will do."
Beeston looks comfortable and relaxed as he settles into his office chair for a sitdown interview earlier this week. His 1992 World Series ring is shining on his right hand and an unlit cigar is hanging from his mouth.
"You can call it a soother," he says. "I've been smoking them for so long."
He's happy to take a break from tidying up his office to chat.
"I used to have 500 boxes that were sitting there. That was all part of my cabin cleanup that I've been doing," he says with a laugh. "You cannot believe it. They wouldn't throw them out. They packaged them all up and put them away. I said, 'I don't know what you're going to do with them. Give 'em to an artist.'
"If you know any artists who want 500 cigar boxes, I've got them for you. All Montecristos."
Beeston was the first employee hired by the Blue Jays in 1976 and saw the team through its glory years over two decades ago. He retired for the first time after a five-year run in Major League Baseball's commissioner's office came to an end in 2002.
Beeston returned to the Blue Jays in 2008. His second run with the team was capped last fall after a gripping playoff run ended with a six-game loss to Kansas City in the American League Championship Series.
He's bullish on Toronto's chances again this season and plans to be a regular at the ballpark when he's not away travelling with his wife.
"I have no risk in this thing anymore. I have upside but no downside," he says. "The team goes on a 10-game losing streak, I'm sleeping. I can be upset like an ordinary fan. But I'm sleeping."
A jovial, gregarious type, Beeston says he feels very fortunate to have spent his career in baseball. He adds that the Blue Jays and team owner Rogers Communications have treated him very fairly.
He leaves the new front office with a team that's expected to be a contender again.
Shapiro, 49, joined the Blue Jays after a long run as an executive with the Cleveland Indians. Beeston, a 70-year-old native of Welland, Ont., says he likes his successor and wants him to succeed.
"When you pass the baton, you want the next guy to run faster," he says.
He also feels that it has been a smooth transition.
"At the very end of the day, it's been quite seamless. Mark has been absolutely easy to work with. To the extent that I can help him, I do. To the extent that I can support him, I do. If he asks me a question, I'll give him what I think the answer would be if I was doing it.
"But if [he] wants to go a different direction, I'll support [him] 100 per cent."
Beeston still keeps in touch with former GM Alex Anthopoulos, who joined the Los Angeles Dodgers' front office in the off-season. He predicts that Anthopoulos will be a GM again one day and is liking the challenge with his new team.
"It can only strengthen his resume and more importantly than that, strengthen his ability to make decisions and how you do things," he says. "It's terrific. I find him most relaxed. He's very, very competitive. We'd like to play him in the World Series. I mean there's no question about that. That would be a gas and a half."
Beeston spent five years with an accounting firm before first joining the Blue Jays as their vice-president of administration. He was promoted to vice-president of business operations in 1977, the club's first year in Major League Baseball.
His love and passion for the team has never wavered.
"I consider myself lucky. I worked in baseball for around 40 years," he says. "I never considered it a job. Every day was a Saturday for me."