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Beeston becomes full-time president Add to ...

BASEBALL REPORTER

It was an arduous hunt for sure - more than a year in the making - but Paul Beeston has finally found the best man to head up the Toronto Blue Jays.

Himself.

The 64-year-old confirmed yesterday what many had been anticipating for months - that he has decided to remove the interim tag from his title to become the new full-time president and chief executive officer of the team.

Beeston said he has an agreement with Rogers to remain with the Blue Jays for three more years.

"The thing that bothers me is everyone's going to think this was always in the cards and it really wasn't," Beeston said yesterday. "My goal always was to get somebody."

But Beeston couldn't make it happen despite a search that had gone on since October of last year when he took over for Paul Godfrey, who resigned as president and CEO a month earlier.

"While we interviewed a number of highly qualified individuals for the position, Paul's unique set of qualities made him our clear first choice," Tony Viner, President and CEO of Rogers Media, the owners of the Blue Jays, said in a statement. "While Paul was initially appointed on an interim basis, he approached the role with his usual high energy and conviction to set the club up for success - something he's now committed to do for the long term."

Last April, Beeston wanted to hire Rick Welts, the president and chief executive officer of the NBA's Phoenix Suns, for the job.

But Welts ultimately turned Beeston down.

"There were worthy candidates out there," Beeston said. "But I think at the end of the day one of the things they [Rogers]were looking for is somebody who definitely had experience in baseball. And I was here."

Beeston was one of the architects behind the Blue Jays teams that won the World Series in 1992 and 1993.

The Blue Jays haven't been able to make the playoffs since and this past season finished well off the pace in the American League East with a 75-87 record.

Beeston was also the Blue Jays' first employee in 1976 and served as team president from 1989 through 1996.

From 1997 to 2002, Beeston served as president and Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball.

Beeston will have his work cut out for him to try to restore order to an organization that was rocked by controversy at the end of a losing season when players - both on and off the record - complained about the leadership of manager Cito Gaston.

During the final regular-season series in Baltimore against the Orioles, Beeston flew down to Baltimore to personally address the players and fired J.P. Ricciardi, the team's general manager the past eight years.

Alex Anthopoulos, a 32-year-old protégé of Ricciardi's, was appointed as the team's new GM and he has been busy initiating a number of changes to the team's scouting and player development department.

Beeston said he has been excited by Anthopoulos' unflagging enthusiasm, the reason why he said he finally decided over the weekend to commit to try and help rebuild the franchise.

"I never take it as a light challenge because, I tell you what, it's going to be a tough road," he said.

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