Emotional clash: Blue Jays CEO Shapiro faces Indians in ALCS

CLEVELAND (AP) " Mark Shapiro's love for Cleveland and its people runs deep, personally and professionally.

It's where the Toronto Blue Jays' president and CEO began his career, raised his family and helped orchestrate a baseball renaissance in the 1990s that's enjoying a 21st-century revival. In many ways, it will always be home for Shapiro.

Over the past few months, Shapiro has enjoyed from afar seeing Cleveland celebrate this summer as the Cavaliers won an NBA title, ending a half-century drought for the city, and he's watched with pride as Indians fans rallied around a team that has been overlooked " even in October.

It's been some ride.

"I just feel bad that we're going to have to put an end to it," he said with a chuckle over the phone on Wednesday.

Shapiro finds himself the man in the middle of the AL Championship Series as his new team, the Blue Jays, will face with the Indians, the franchise that gave him his start, for a spot in the World Series.

And it won't just be an emotional reunion for Shapiro. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins also came up in Cleveland's organization, working alongside Indians president Chris Antonetti, manager Terry Francona and many others.

Shapiro was flying to Cleveland on Wednesday and planned to have dinner with his sister, Julie, who lives in the area. On Thursday, he'll arrive at Progressive Field as he did for more than two decades, and although he knows the direction to the visitors' clubhouse, Shapiro's first stop will be the Indians' executive offices, where he plans to visit colleagues who are as close as family.

"I've got not just friendships, but deep friendships both in the community there and throughout the Indians organization, up and down it," he said. "It's not just walking in to play the team, it's walking in to play a group of people where you have a deep history and a profound respect. But I can tell you, because we've played them seven times already, when the first pitch gets thrown, the only emotion I feel is a competitive desire to win."

Shapiro spent 24 seasons with the Indians, breaking in as an unpaid intern in the early '90s. But it didn't take long for the Princeton-educated son of respected sports agent Ron Shapiro to advance through the ranks and become one of baseball's top executives. Shapiro has always done it the right way, displaying class and humility while molding the Indians into a model organization and helping them navigate through difficult years when the turnstiles slowed and the club had to re-invent itself to stay competitive.

However, Shapiro's impact with the Indians goes way beyond statistical data. His personal skills might be what set him apart.

"I didn't like Mark when he was here. How's that?" Francona joked before turning serious about both Shapiro and Atkins.

"I'm so close to both of them that it'll be fun to say hello," said Francona, who used to take diligent notes whenever Shapiro spoke. "I'm sure they feel the same way we do " they want to beat our brains out. But then when it's over, that's never going to affect a friendship. Next time I probably see them will be at the winter meetings and we'll be laughing and I'm sure something will happen during this (series) we'll be laughing about.

"It could be a year, it could be a month, it could be two years. When you're friends like that, it kind of goes beyond time or uniform or anything like that."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 Oct 2016 13:01:45 Processing Time: 720ms