By: Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Another day of long faces around the Rogers Centre.
And this was before Aaron Sanchez threw his first pitch.
Stephen Brooks vice president of business operations has left the building.
Resigned or fired ... it did not make a difference to employees we spoke with.
“I haven’t been here 25-30 years like some people, but Stephen Brooks, was the most well-liked person in the Rogers Centre ... and that included after we opened the doors for the paying public,” said one long-time employee.
Was it a case of Brooks not meshing or mixing with the former Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro?
“All I know he was here every game, he was at the Blue Jays Academy events, Tournament 12 (which has 750 high schoolers enrolled for next month tryouts) and he was a huge supporter of baseball in Canada,” said another Jays employee.
On a day like Tuesday we think back to St. Marys in 1993 when Don McDougall, one of the three visionaries who brought a franchise to Canada, with Paul Godfrey and Herb Solway. McDougall reflected to the previous October, on a chilly Saturday night in Atlanta and a champagne-soaked clubhouse at Fulton-County Stadium.
“You know when we were granted a franchise we were told by the people in New York we HAD to hire Americans,” McDougall said. “I looked around and there were Paul Beeston, Peter Widdrington, Gord Ash, Howard Starkman, Bob Nicholson and John Brioux -- all Canadians.
“Maybe Canadians do know how to run a ball club?”
And the same executives were soaked again the next year as the Jays repeated on Joe Carter’s homer.
Now, the only one left is Starkman, who is semi-retired. Shapiro took over for Beeston, at the end of last season, Montrealer Alex Anthopoulos headed for the Los Angeles Dodgers turning down a five-year deal (year one was guaranteed) from Rogers and now Brooks, the small town boy from Prince George, B.C. is gone.
That’s a negative three in job losses for Canadians since October.
And not just three ordinary Canadians: Anthopoulos was No. 1 on the Canadian Baseball Network list of Most Influential Canadians, Beeston was No. 5 and Brooks was No. 14.
The three departures are not enough for Prime Minister Trudeau or The Honourable Mary Ann Mihychuk to begin an investigation, but worth monitoring. The Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins both swiped so many Montreal Expos executives their expansion years that the commissioner’s office stepped in and said: “enough.”
Another aspect to the shrinking Canadian content of the Blue Jays: if this becomes a trend, either consciously or subconsciously by the organization, where does young Canadian front-office talent get a start? It is not equal trade since it is much tougher for Canadians going to the U.S. than vice versa, especially for the young ones.
Rogers Communications web site boasts it is “a diversified public Canadian communications and media company” ... and maybe someday it will actually read “employs some Canadians at the top” of the ball team we own.
Canada’s Team? How about changing the slogan to: “Canada’s Team ... Canadians need not apply for vacancies with high salaries.”
The first two jobs were filled by Americans (general manager Ross Atkins and Shapiro) and who replaces Brooks? Will it be Andrew Miller, senior vice president of strategy and business analytics or Dennis Lehman, executive vice president, business?
Both are in the employ of the said Indians currently. Lehman was interviewed before by the Blue Jays and Rogers shortly after the purchase of the SkyDome when the goal was to lure an NFL team to Toronto.
Brooks took over the financial aspects of the organization from John Boots in 2009 and then moved into business. Before Boots, Susan Brioux and Bob Nicholson held similar position. He had worked with Rogers since 2004.
Stephen Brooks was not a “box” guy, looking down on the field below from a sky box. Rather he watched from the front row of the scoreboard booth.
He was personable, well liked and had a passion for both his team and the city. Much like Rob Jack, who parted ways with the Jays in November.
His last tweet on his active twitter account was “Huge shout out to grounds and conversions crew who made this infield happen. Long hours. Great feedback.”
And now, Brooks is gone too.
Sad the trend this team is taking.