Starkman reps Blue Jays, enters Canadian HOF

Former director of public relations has been with Toronto for all 40 years

Starkman reps Blue Jays, enters Canadian HOF

ST. MARYS, Ontario -- Howard Starkman is the one man who has represented Toronto Blue Jays baseball for the 40 years of the franchise's existence.

Hired by former team president Paul Beeston prior to the inaugural season in 1976, the 71-year-old Starkman began as the director of public relations before becoming the vice president of media relations, and later the vice president of special projects for the club, also working as an official for Major League Baseball for a number of World Series, All-Star Games, and the World Baseball Classic.

Inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon, Starkman was also previously honoured in Cooperstown with the Robert O. Fishel Award for public relations excellence two decades ago. The man who hired him always knew that this is where his colleague and friend would someday land, and he couldn't be more proud of the Blue Jays representative.

"You knew right from the very beginning," Beeston said. "You knew he was special. He treated everybody with courtesy and he treated everybody with respect. More importantly, he had common sense and he knew the team concept.

"And there's one guy in this organization for 40 years -- because all of us have come and gone -- that has been consistent, which is important, and it's Howie. So today is a special day for anybody who's been with the organization at any point in time, because there's one guy who represents it, and that's Howie Starkman."

When Starkman learned that he would be bestowed with the honour, he was more than just pleasantly surprised, and he hopes that his enshrinement can represent all of the behind-the-scenes people he's worked with over his four decades in Toronto.

"I must say I was shocked when I found out I was going into the Hall of Fame," Starkman said. "I never played, so I never dreamt of being in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, but it's a great honour and I'm very proud and humbled to be in it.

"Forty years with the Blue Jays have gone by like that, many great players, many great times, many great memories, so I'm just glad that I'm being honoured here and I hope that I can speak on behalf of so many of the behind-the-scenes employees for the last 40 years, that they'll feel that this is really is a symbol of what they've accomplished in the last 40 years with the Blue Jays."

Acknowledging all of those other people often throughout a day meant to honour his own accomplishments, Starkman made sure to thank his family for its support and he said without the players, he wouldn't have had any of the opportunities he was given. He believes that the connections he's built and the people he's seen come and go have been the highlight of his extensive career.

"It's the relationships with the people that have been most rewarding," Starkman said. "I always empathize with the players. I learned very quickly you can't get too emotional. I didn't take the wins and losses too hard, but I always had to go in the clubhouse afterward with the manager and the players there, and I always had empathy for them for the actual losses where they really [were affected].

"People don't really understand the pressure that they're under day by day. They're basically trying to perform for their job every day, and people are criticizing and critical and it's quite difficult. I don't think people really understand how difficult it is. But the people I've worked with, I had so many great people in the organization that contributed, and personally I had a number that worked under me directly so I really remember those relationships."

Grateful for Starkman's understanding, fellow inductee and former American League Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen believes that his demeanour and affable characteristics have contributed to his longevity in the game.

"He's just a guy with a great sense of humour, hard worker, classy guy, and he's consistent," Hentgen said. "He didn't have the ups and downs that a lot of people fall into that trap in baseball. He was one of those Steady Eddies."

On hand for the ceremony to honour the 2016 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction class included not only Starkman and Hentgen, but Canadian scout, builder and former Minor League player Wayne Norton, former Montreal Expos right-hander Dennis Martinez, former Blue Jays TV analyst Tony Kubek and baseball pioneer William Shuttleworth, who was enshrined posthumously. Former Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick was happy to see his former co-worker receive the deserved accolade.

"The whole time I was in Toronto, Howard was the go-to guy," said Gillick, also honoured in both the Canadian Hall and in Cooperstown. "He was the guy who kept everybody straight and headed on the highway. With his information, his knowledge, his feel for people, and the way that he carried himself, Howard's a very deserving person in his field for this honour."

Alexis Brudnicki is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.