Shapiro meets with Blue Jays staff after more Callaway allegations emerge

Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro. (Marta Iwanek/CP)

TORONTO – Further allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by Mickey Callaway during his time with Cleveland reported by The Athletic this week prompted Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro to address the matter in a meeting with staff Wednesday afternoon, according to an industry source.

Precise details of the conversation weren’t immediately available, but Shapiro was the general manager when current Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins, then Cleveland’s farm director, hired Callaway to serve as pitching coach for the club’s single-A Lake County affiliate in 2010.

Atkins is expected to speak with media Thursday.

In October 2017, after Callaway was hired as manager of the New York Mets, Atkins praised Callaway — currently on suspension from his role as Los Angeles Angels pitching coach — in this column by Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

On Feb. 1, in a meticulously reported piece by Britt Ghiroli and Katie Strang of The Athletic, five women who work in sports media detailed how Callaway pursued them aggressively, sending three of them inappropriate pictures.

In a follow-up story this week, Ghiroli and Strang refuted the assertion of current Cleveland president Chris Antonetti that the team only learned of Callaway’s behaviour earlier this month, interviewing 22 people to have interacted with the pitching coach during his time there. Twelve of them were current or former employees.

“They say that Callaway’s sexual indiscretions permeated the workplace to such an extent that it would have been difficult for top officials to not be aware of his behaviour, and they push back against any assertion that Callaway’s actions, when made public by The Athletic last month, caught team executives or MLB by surprise,” Ghiroli and Strang wrote.

Shapiro and Atkins were in Cleveland with Callaway for six years. At minimum, there are fair questions about whether a more rigorous vetting process is now in place for new Blue Jays hires as a safeguard for current team employees.

They were also part of a Cleveland organization that must answer for how much it knew about Callaway’s actions, and whether the alleged behaviours were overlooked as his star rose in the organization.

Under Atkins’ watch, Callaway was promoted to pitching coach for single-A Kinston in 2011 and then minor-league pitching co-ordinator in 2012. A year later, he began a five-year run as Cleveland’s pitching coach under incoming manager Terry Francona.

Shapiro was promoted to president in Cleveland after the 2010 season, largely focused on business-side matters, while Atkins was bumped up to vice-president of player development in 2011. Both left to join the Blue Jays after the 2015 season.

The meeting with Blue Jays staff comes amid a wider — and long overdue — reckoning within the industry about sexual harassment and misconduct experienced by women in and around the game.

In January, the New York Mets fired newly hired GM Jared Porter after Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that he had sent a female reporter explicit, unsolicited texts in 2016 while he was an executive with the Chicago Cubs.

Major League Baseball has since created a hotline that victims of sexual harassment in sports media can use, and has a department of investigations with which to pursue allegations.

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