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Beeston has high hopes at State of the Franchise

Outgoing Blue Jays president aiming for playoffs in final season

TORONTO -- Blue Jays president Paul Beeston told season-ticket holders at his final State of the Franchise event that he wants to go out with a "bang."

The annual interactive event Thursday night provided Beeston with an opportunity to speak directly with fans for the first time since it was announced he would retire after the upcoming season.

Beeston had been relatively quiet since the news of his one-year extension broke Jan. 26, but he joked about it during his opening comments to fans and added he intends to go out in style.

"Apparently I only have one year left," Beeston jokingly said, which drew laughter from the crowd. "The 2015 season is the final one, but with every intention of going out with a winning team, a team that's in the playoffs, a team that gives you exactly what you deserve, which is a championship, or at least one that's in the playoffs."

When Beeston was introduced Thursday night, most of the fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation. It seemed like a fitting tribute for the man who was the first employee of the organization and already has his name on the club's Level of Excellence.

Beeston had been relatively open about his desire to remain with the Blue Jays through the 2015 season, but word leaked during the Winter Meetings in San Diego that the club reached out to Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams about his job.

The rumors carried into the new year, and they weren't put to rest until Blue Jays chairman Edward Rogers issued a press release to announce a new deal for Beeston. It was chaotic for everyone involved, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos admitted even he didn't know exactly what was going on at the time.

"It was news to me. I landed in San Diego; like everybody, you get off the plane, turn your phone on and the phone exploded," Anthopoulos said of the initial reports. "Then you start to pick up the pieces at that point.

"I talked to Paul and his instructions to me were, 'Just do your job, worry about what you can control and don't concern yourself with it.' I really tried not to pay any attention to it. Stability is always a good thing, I think that goes without saying. Glad it's all behind and that we can move forward."

Beeston joined the Blue Jays in 1976 and stuck around until '97, when he departed to take a job in the Commissioner's Office. He returned in 2009 and was a driving force behind updating the original Blue Jays logo along with expanding some of the club's community outreach programs, including the annual Winter Tour.

The 69-year-old also has been working to replace the artificial playing surface at Rogers Centre with natural grass. Beeston reiterated that desire Thursday night and once again went on record to say that the Blue Jays' payroll will be going up again in 2015, but he was relatively vague on the specifics.

The fact that the Blue Jays are once again talking about the future instead of the past can only be good news for an organization that is looking to move past the recent distractions.

"Paul is a top-notch baseball guy," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I'm glad they settled all those issues. Knowing that this is going to be his last year, [we] would love to send him out on top. That would be the dream, the way to send him off."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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