By Melissa Verge
Canadian Baseball Network
It’s a Saturday morning, and the president of the Toronto Blue Jays is sitting behind a giant brown desk at the Rogers Centre somewhere in right field.
There’s a little sign put up in the left-hand corner of the desk that says, “Mark Shapiro.” His job for one hour? To sign one-day contracts with fans. For the rest of the day, they’re honorary members of the Toronto Blue Jays.
In front of him is a frighteningly long line of people all waiting to meet the president, and, become one day members of the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
“Hi, how are you doing?” he greets a fan.
“Mark.” he says. He doesn’t say “I’m Mark.” It’s just “Mark.” He signs the contract in front of him and shakes hands with the newest honorary member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s the first annual Winter Fest at the Rogers Centre, and signing “A Blue Jay for a Day” contract is just one of the many events taking place on the field. Shapiro says Winter Fest is great because of how interactive it is for the fans.
“I think the overall event gives the fans the ability to be able to connect with the players, the team, the organization, at a time of year when they’re usually just waiting for pitchers and catchers to report,” he says. “My hope is this becomes part of the tradition.”
One of the lucky fans to get his contract signed by Shapiro is Blue Jays fan Dave Lock, who says he signed his contract for no monetary value, just season tickets and unlimited free hotdogs.
“It was worth it,” Lock says.
The one-page contract states “On this twentieth day of January Two Thousand and Eighteen, The Toronto Blue Jays would like to recognize Dave Lock as an Honorary Blue Jay for a Day.”
“Growing up I played some baseball but never thought the Jays would take a chance on a guy like me,” he says. “You know, it feels good. I’ve got the intensity of a Marcus Stroman but the skills of a Josh Donaldson.”
Lock is one of the many fans to get their contract signed by Shapiro. It’s estimated that there are 15,000 fans in attendance.
Shapiro is impressed by the amount of people who have shown up not just for autographs, but to enjoy the Winter Fest event as a whole.
“Seeing people with sweaters and hats in the middle of January, and lined up outside the stadium, it's inspirational,” he says.
His interaction with each fan appears to be unique, including discussions about favourite players, and surrounding the excitement of the upcoming season.
“It’s all positive, all great,” Shapiro says.
As 12:30 p.m. rolls around, it signals the end of the president's shift signing contracts. He gets up from the big brown desk in right field, and fans walk away with their signed one day Blue Jay contracts from Mark Shapiro. Some are shorter than the desk itself, some would make the oldest player in the MLB right now look young.
It’s been a productive day for Mark Shapiro at his desk in right field.