Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro on rule changes, Rogers Centre renos, attendance

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Mark Shapiro’s eyes lit up on the query.

Any ideas on the brand new guidelines? He was requested by a reporter throughout a forty five minute session with the Blue Jays media on Wednesday in a boardroom on the participant growth advanced.

“Many,” Shapiro mentioned, smiling. “I’ve spent a few years of my life working on them.”

The Blue Jays president is on MLB’s competitors committee, an 11-person panel that oversees modifications to on-field guidelines and final 12 months accepted the sequence of latest guidelines which might be being launched this season together with a pitch clock, shifting ban and bigger bases.

Shapiro has spent his life across the sport. In some ways, he considers himself a traditionalist. However he’s not so steeped in nostalgia he can’t see that baseball has to maneuver ahead to draw new and extra numerous followers. It’s not merely about bettering the tempo of play — it’s about bettering the frequency of motion on the sphere.

“I’m not apocalyptic. I don’t really feel like the sport can’t survive 4 minutes and 17 seconds between balls in play,” Shapiro mentioned. “However I do really feel the sport can’t develop. I do really feel the expectation to each interact youthful followers and to interact new followers, which is a precedence for us, particularly for the Blue Jays in such a various worldwide market, to draw new followers and a way more crowded sports activities and leisure — and leisure typically — panorama that it is rather difficult to get somebody to return in.”

Amongst all the brand new guidelines, the pitch clock is what Shapiro is most excited for.

“I’ve watched the minor-league video games and I’ve talked to gamers, talked to coaches, talked to umpires, talked to followers and talked to entrance workplace, and it’s common — everyone loves it,” he mentioned. “Do I anticipate there to be some transition? Sure, everyone hates change. All people hates change. I can first-hand attest to that, however the place I feel we’ll find yourself in three months and 4 months, and positively in a 12 months, is a much-improved product.”

Listed here are three extra takeaways from Shapiro’s wide-ranging chat.

Influence of the brand new Rogers Centre outfield dimensions

In a bit greater than six weeks, followers will stroll right into a Rogers Centre that appears dramatically totally different. As a part of a $300 million, multi-phase mission, the membership has been renovating the stadium all offseason in an effort to make it really feel extra like a ballpark.

The main focus of the modifications has been primarily fan-facing within the first part, however the construct has additionally launched new dimensions within the outfield that has attracted consideration.

The once-symmetrical wall will characteristic distinctive angles and ranging wall heights. It’s anticipated to make the outfield trickier to play however the place they’ve introduced within the fences — corresponding to in proper discipline — they’ve raised the wall heights to offset the influence. The membership has mentioned that primarily based on their modelling, they anticipate the stadium’s setting to stay impartial. Nonetheless, till the video games are performed, we gained’t know the complete influence. Shapiro, for one, is happy in regards to the intrigue.

‘Distinct ballpark character’: The Rogers Centre outfield goes to look – and play – in a different way this season #BlueJays

— Kaitlyn McGrath (@kaitlyncmcgrath) January 28, 2023

“There will certainly be extra doubles,” he mentioned. “Will probably be attention-grabbing to see a few of the angles which might be created and what that does for balls in play. As I take into consideration this work dovetailing with a few of my work within the on-field committee, the huge quantity of fan suggestions that we acquired says that that sort of motion is what our followers need to see.”

What if the Rogers Centre does find yourself skewing to be an excessive hitters’ park? Shapiro is ready to adapt.

“If there’s some unintended consequence and consequence that’s excessive, we’ll both say we’re good to stay with that, we like having an excessive ballpark attribute, however I’ll inform you heading into it, we don’t suppose we’ve created an excessive ballpark attribute. We nonetheless anticipate our ballpark to play comparatively impartial,” Shapiro mentioned.


Between the pandemic displacing the staff for almost two seasons and final 12 months’s offseason lockout, it’s been some time for the reason that Blue Jays had a standard offseason main into a brand new 12 months to advertise the membership and drive ticket gross sales.

Toronto ranked seventh in attendance final season, with a mean of 32,763 per sport per Baseball Reference. However with COVID-19 restrictions gone, a refurbished ballpark and a staff that’s had back-to-back 90-plus win seasons, the membership is hopeful they’ll see a rise in attendance this 12 months.

“We’ve had a rise in gross sales, however not on the magnitude that we might hope and I feel underneath any regular circumstances would come,” Shapiro mentioned. “We’re optimistic and fairly assured that’s going to return, however there’s a bit extra stress on single-game gross sales than I feel you’d like operating considered one of these companies.”

There are nonetheless challenges. Based mostly on anecdotal proof, Shapiro mentioned final 12 months, weekend sequence tended to promote properly, however with extra folks working from residence now than downtown after the pandemic, the membership seemingly misplaced some weekday foot site visitors they used to draw.

The foundation of the stadium modifications, nonetheless, are designed to make the stadium extra welcoming to each baseball and non-baseball followers alike. With the introduction of the rooftop patios, the membership is hoping to draw younger individuals who stay inside strolling distance of the stadium extra usually. There may be additionally hope the family-friendly areas maintain folks returning incessantly. Shapiro sees one other potential progress space in attracting new Canadian residents who settle in Toronto. The Blue Jays president pointed to the Raptors as a franchise to mannequin after when it comes to attracting new followers.

“You should create compelling causes to return to a ballpark and watch. Primary (is) at all times aggressive staff, championship-calibre staff,” Shapiro mentioned. “However after that, it’s essential to have some experiences throughout the ballpark that create a motive to need to be there and need to be in a communal setting, not simply watching it alone.”

Taking the subsequent step on the sphere

Blue Jays supervisor John Schneider’s message to his staff on the primary day of full-squad exercises was “it’s time to take the subsequent step from a extremely gifted staff to a staff that’s going to be actually powerful to beat each single night time.” He preached consideration to element and doing the little issues proper to realize that.

Requested to weigh in on how he thinks a staff goes from good to nice to championship-calibre, Shapiro thinks about it when it comes to controlling your controllables.

“From the way in which you present up every single day to the way you deal with folks, whether or not it’s that custodian strolling down the concourse to, most significantly, the way in which you deal with the teammate within the locker subsequent to you, to the way in which you method your preparation for the sport that night time, not simply taking BP however taking BP with intent, not simply taking part in catch, however going via a throwing program,” Shapiro mentioned. “All of the little stuff you do all through a day, doing them with intent, elite performers and championship groups that outperform perhaps what they need to do, simply primarily based objectively, are groups that do all these little issues and have a way of objective, have a way of focus (and) care about one another.”

Talking particularly about his membership, Shapiro additionally talked a few sense of heightened maturity that comes from gamers gaining expertise and bringing in veterans who’ve carried out on the highest stage.

“We’ve continued to evolve and develop from a expertise perspective and complement the group of gifted gamers with different gamers,” Shapiro mentioned. “It appears like there’s a way of objective that has emerged from that and to me, maturity is simply one other method of claiming that these guys, they’re approaching every day down right here with a way of objective they usually’re heading into the season with a objective, as properly.”

 (Photograph of Mark Shapiro in 2022: Vaughn Ridley / Getty Photos)

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