Mark Shapiro isn’t being evasive, but he isn’t sugarcoating it, either.
The Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO is simply conscious of the innumerable concerns being faced for a 2020 MLB season to finally get underway as the COVID-19 pandemic still halts virtually every pro-sports league on the globe. Amid endless scenarios and speculation, the only way to get through it, according to Shapiro, is to stay together and keep an open mind.
“The variables that guide where those scenarios go are putting public health first and foremost and then reacting to that,” Shapiro told Tim Micallef and Arash Madani on Tim & Sid Thursday. “So, the scenarios that make the most sense at any moment in time are ones that fit with the constraints that we need to conform to in order to put the broader community first.”
Shapiro doesn’t have a preference as to what an ideal scenario for the return of baseball would be. He wouldn’t speculate, but did mention that a delayed season could include varying logistics, roster rules and venues, for example.
It should be very difficult to carry out those plans without some compromise.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for the players, the owners, the league, to get together to be completely collaborative in understanding the value of bringing our game back to our fans,” he said. “To put the differences aside and just provide baseball in whatever compromise and whatever sacrifice individual stakeholders have to make, to put those things aside and bring the game back. Safely, first and foremost, but also as soon as we possibly can.
“And within that, we need to be open-minded.”
The fight to bring baseball back is just a fraction of Shapiro’s concerns amid the isolation period. After the Blue Jays cleaned out their spring camp following the spread of COVID-19 and various shutdown orders, 18 Venezuelan players were left stranded in Clearwater, Fla., barred from entering their home country.
Those players — as well as four Blue Jays staff members — were placed in individual hotel rooms and given exercises to remain active and occupied, even if away from their families and their homes.
“My heart aches for those guys, not being able to get home in a time like this, having to be stuck in a hotel,” Shapiro said, highlighting that the front office came together to work on a plan to help those players.
“Moments like this, to think about those kids — and they are kids, by the way, they’re 17, 18 years old — to be alone in a hotel so far away from their families, with none of the things that lead to normalcy in their lives and maybe not completely understand why. We’ve just tried to, on a very, very daily basis, connect with them, guide them, talk with them, support them, provide them with some pieces of regular life if we can. But man, it’s been a challenge for those guys.”
As players within the organization vary in resources and levels, the Blue Jays have also worked nonstop to ensure they are maintaining an echelon of preparedness and mentality.
“Maybe it’s more the mental side of the game, the game-planning side, the strategic (side) for (catchers) Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire, the games they call,” Shapiro said. “Maybe it’s for pitchers, just reviewing attacking hitters and developing a game plan.
“But I think we can still do things, and we are — on a very individual basis — to still ensure we’re doing the best we can to utilize this time.”