TORONTO — The Paul Beeston era is drawing to a close on a high note.
Mark Shapiro was named Beeston's successor as Blue Jays president on Monday, hours before Toronto hosted the Cleveland Indians and looked to tighten its grip on first place in the American League East.
"He brought Canada two World Series and has us all excited looking at the prospects for this year," said Blue Jays chairman Edward Rogers in a statement. "Paul will always be a member of the Blue Jays team and family. In the meantime, he has all of our support as we continue to work towards a strong post-season for the Blue Jays."
Beeston, from nearby Welland, Ont., was famously the first employee of the Blue Jays when Toronto was awarded an American League franchise in 1976. He rose through the ranks of the organization, becoming president in 1989 and chief executive officer in 1991, helping guide the team to back-to-back World Series wins in 1992 and 1993.
He was president and chief operating officer for Major League Baseball from 1997 to 2002, returning to his post with Toronto in 2008.
The 70-year-old Beeston announced that he would be retiring at the end of this season, setting the stage for Shapiro to leave his role as Cleveland's president and take over the post with the Blue Jays after the World Series is completed.
Toronto held a 1.5 game lead over the New York Yankees for top spot in the AL East before Monday's games. According to Baseball Prospectus projections on MLB.com the Blue Jays are virtually guaranteed a post-season berth.
"I have known Mark for many years. He is an exemplary executive and his passion for baseball and winning is remarkable," said Beeston in a statement. "I am happy to pass him the baton – but not just yet.
"(Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos), the team, and I have a little more work to do and we're focused on putting more Ws in the win column."
Beeston was named to the Blue Jays' Level of Excellence on April 4, 2008.
"We've got a good relationship. He's done a lot for this organization from Day 1," said Toronto manager John Gibbons before Monday's game. "His name's up on that wall in the outfield for a reason.
"I'm going to hate to see him go, that's for sure, because he's really been one of the key guys building this franchise."
Beeston's contributions to baseball have been recognized outside of the Blue Jays organization as well, earning him distinction as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1988. In 1998, he was elected to the board of directors of the Baseball Hall of Fame and in 2002 he was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
However, it's Beeston's hands-on approach that Gibbons will miss the most.
"He comes down and visits at least a couple times a week in here before the game," said Gibbons. "I'm a big fan. He's been good to me, I know that. He's been good to a lot of people."
Beeston also served as president of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts in 1994.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press