Alomar, McDonald are Shapiro backers

By Bob Elliott

Sandy Alomar was dealt by the San Diego Padres at the 1989 winter meetings.

The next spring he put on a Cleveland Indians uniform.

John McDonald was drafted by Cleveland in 1996.

Both have been in Indians organization for 17 seasons. 

They know the Indians and all things Cleveland.

And Alomar the coach and McDonald the broadcaster know Mark Shapiro, who takes over at season’s end as the next Blue Jays president. 

Edward Rogers, deputy chairman of Rogers Communications, credited for hiring Shapiro was at the Rogers Centre Wednesday for the Blue Jays finale against the Indians. 

An internal email from Rick Brace, president of Rogers Media, said Shapiro will report to Brace when he begins work at the conclusion of this season.

Shapiro joined the Indians as an assistant in baseball operations in 1991.

Seated in the visiting clubhouse Wednesday Alomar is capable of giving a scouting report on his old boss, a man Blue Jays fans will get to know and love/loathe.

“Mark has always been very genuine to me, always up front,” said Alomar, Hall of Fame brother of Robbie Alomar, whose plaque has the only Blue Jays logo on it in Cooperstown.

“You know in all those years I never saw him upset, he was always level headed. We could be in the middle of a storm, he would made it feel like a hick up.”

Working for GM John Hart, Shapiro was the director of minor league operations from 1994-98 a fertile time down on the farm. Alomar recalls home grown born and fed contributors like Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Jaret Wright, Paul Shuey, Brian Giles, Sean Casey and Richie Sexson.

“Mark deserved a lot of credit for our farm system, I remember 1998 Thome broke his hand, everyone was worried ‘what are we going to do?’ Sexson hit so many homers people had banners up in centre for Richie after a week. They forgot about Thome.”

It’s because of Shapiro Alomar is coaching with the Indians, after being a coach on first manager Willie Randolph and then Jerry Manuel’s staff with the New York Mets. 

“Mark’s one of the reasons I’m back in Cleveland,” Alomar said. “He reached out to me when he was GM.”

And so Alomar joined manager Manny Acta’s staff in Cleveland.

“He’s an easy person to talk to,” Alomar says, “you can have a conversation and you don’t feel like he’s trying to leave. He listens when you talk. Never disrespects.”

Alomar said it a big believer in "community events" and grass roots baseball." If that's accurate that is excellent news for amateur ball across the country. A number of coaches are not worried whether Shapiro will add a starter or an outfielder for next season ... but will the Jays Baseball Academy and Honda Super Camp programs survive coast to coast?

Shapiro began a winter development program in 1996 for Indians minor leaguers. The system he “helped create and oversee,” according to the Indians media guide “is based on a holistic philosophy of development and providing cutting-edge resources to Indians players in the mental, physical and fundamental domains.”

Hmmmm.

Hey all you New Hampshire Fisher Cats ... are you ready for some holistic philosophy?
We’re talking more serious than “take two and hit to right -- make sure it’s not the last two.”

McDonald and farm director Shapiro hit it off from the start. The infielder called the office for help after scuffling at double-A Akron and hitting .230 in 1998.

“Mark went so far as to go outside the organization to set me up with a new hitting instructor (Kevin Seitzer) because he thought it would help,” said McDonald, who hit .307 the next year at triple-A Buffalo and Akron and was promoted to Cleveland for his major-league debut.

McDonald is not a Shapiro backer strictly from his minor league days. What the Jays are about to go through, the Indians have recently done in the past.

Do the Jays re-locate in Dunedin to a new facility on highway No. 19 where Stirling Links golf course sits? Or move elsewhere?

A $250-$400 million, five-year renovation plan has been submitted to the Rogers ivory tower for approval.    

“They’re going to fix up the stadium? He did that last year, changes he in right field (at Progressive Field) are impressive,” said McDonald. “The Indians have already been through a spring training complex move from Florida to Arizona.

“Mark checks off a lot of boxes.”

McDonald describes his friend as a “great communicator with staff and players” with a constant goal of making the team better.

“He’s not someone who claims to have all the answers,” McDonald said. “Mark is like ‘how can you help me grow?’ His approach is ‘let’s learn, let’s share ideas. How do we get better? The game is always changing we have to make adjustments. Who can we talk to find out more information on that? How can we improve our organization.

“All of those are all great leadership qualities.”

We’ll know more about Shapiro when he arrives.

Does he lead and tell general manager Alex Anthopoulos to get out of the way?

Does he hike ticket prices? 

Does he get the cash to make a run at free-agent David Price? Now making the adjustment from a small revenue to a larger one is always a difficult adjustment.