The Indians announced on Monday that Shapiro will take over as the Blue Jays' team president and chief executive officer at the conclusion of the season, when current president and CEO Paul Beeston plans to retire. During a news conference at Progressive Field, which did not exist when Shapiro first joined the Indians, he fought back tears.
"I really spent exactly half my life here," Shapiro said. "That's incredible."
With Shapiro leaving Cleveland after 24 years, Tribe owner and CEO Paul Dolan said the presidential responsibilities will be spread among other front-office members. Shapiro's departure to Toronto does not impact the roles of Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, his assistants or manager Terry Francona, who said earlier this week that he has no desire to use his opt-out clause, which became active with Shapiro's coming departure, to find a new job.
Dolan said he believes in the group that is currently in place.
"I don't think we'll have a replacement per se," Dolan explained. "There aren't many teams that have presidents that functioned as Mark did and will. Internally, we'll look at it to see if there's a gap we need to fill, but right now our plan is to move forward as is."
Shapiro's confidence in Cleveland's front office is one of the reasons he felt the timing of his move was appropriate.
"I feel good about the leadership in place -- extremely good about it," Shapiro said. "It is a strong group of people who are mature, who understand the challenges in place and have committed both to the values that bond them together and to the strategies that are going to help them overcome those challenges."
The Blue Jays have long admired Shapiro, whose name was floated last offseason when Toronto was searching for a potential replacement for Beeston. At that time, the Blue Jays called off the search and Beeston agreed to stay on for the 2015 season. Shapiro's name rose to the surface again earlier this month, then talks progressed rapidly in recent weeks.
Toronto reached out in late July to Dolan, who did not stand in the way of the move or seek compensation for Shapiro's departure.
"My relationship with Mark was such that he had the ability to do this when the time was right for him," Dolan said. "It was not a compensation issue."
Shapiro, 48, joined the Indians in January 1992 as an assistant to baseball operations and spent the past two decades making his mark on the Tribe's player development and front-office structures and procedures. He recalled driving into downtown Cleveland nearly a quarter-century ago with his brother, David, and pointing to a plot of land that would soon feature a new ballpark for the Indians.
"There was one more building that was getting demo'd the week," Shapiro said. "So began the construction of Jacobs Field, but more, for me, began an incredible juncture in my life marked by unbelievable relationships, marked by championships, marked by rings and marked by celebrations, but really more by friendships made and bonds that were created, both in this community and certainly within the organization and beyond."
Shapiro advanced to the role of farm director in 1994, and he then took over as Cleveland's vice president of player operations and assistant general manager under former Tribe GM John Hart in 1999.
During his time as director of the Indians' Minor League operations, Shapiro oversaw the team's Latin American operations and also created the winter development program for Minor Leaguers in 1996. That innovative initiative brings prospects to Cleveland each winter to provide training and an introduction to the Major League experience. Other teams have followed with similar offseason programs.
As Cleveland's GM after Hart from 2002-10, Shapiro was twice (2005 and '07) named the Sporting News' Executive of the Year. The Indians won 93 games in '05 and then matched the MLB lead with 96 wins in '07, when Cleveland won the American League Central and came within one win of reaching its first World Series since 1997.
Shapiro took over as the Indians' team president in 2010, when Antonetti assumed the role of GM in Cleveland. In his new role, Shapiro focused on improving the team's branding and ticketing methods, and he most recently helped lead the start of a dramatic multiphase, privately funded renovation project at Progressive Field, which opened its doors in 1994.
Shapiro's work on that project surely was enticing for the Blue Jays, who are looking to make improvements to Rogers Centre, which opened in 1989.
"I will have a laundry list of things to get acquainted with," Shapiro said. "Their stadium is a mature stadium that is in need of redevelopment. I think process, more than particulars, will be helpful in leading that process."
Beyond his work with the Tribe, Shapiro also serves on Commissioner Rob Manfred's competition committee. Similarly, Shapiro was also a part of former Commissioner Bud Selig's special committee for on-field matters from 2010-14. Shapiro also sits on Major League Baseball's ticketing committee.
Dolan said Shapiro's legacy exists in the leaders developed under his watch in Cleveland.
"The fact that there are so many former Cleveland Indians personnel sprinkled throughout Major League Baseball," Dolan said, "is a testament to the development system that Mark has put in place, and how it's attracted and developed strong individuals. I think that maybe Mark's greatest legacy to our organization and to baseball itself."