Pioneer League Hires Longtime Executive Mike Shapiro As President
The Pioneer League has hired longtime baseball executive Mike Shapiro as its new president.
Shapiro will be given the daunting, but intriguing task of transitioning a league from affiliated baseball to a new independent league that is one of Major League Baseball's official partner leagues.
The Pioneer League has eight teams that are set to begin the 2021 season on May 22. Seven of the eight existing members of the Pioneer League will play the inaugural season. They will be joined by Boise, which was added from the Northwest League. The other existing Pioneer League member Northern Colorado (which played as Orem previously) is set to join the league in 2022.
“The league has an incredible opportunity due to its partner league status," Shapiro said. "It’s a unique status. The Pioneer League will focus on younger players, It’s exactly what MLB needs. If MLB goes to 20 rounds (in the draft) there are a lot of talented players that would be drafted from the 21st to the 30th round or more. Where do those players go? Those are very fruitful pools of players that only the Pioneer League is positioned to attract."
The exact roster rules that the Pioneer League will use are still being finalized, but Shapiro says that the league will have rules to ensure that the teams are filled with younger players. The other partner leagues have rules that allow older, more experienced professional players to fill roster spots.
Shapiro also said that the league is open to having some MLB-affiliated players on its rosters. When the Missoula Paddleheads announced their switch to a partner league, they suggested that some of the players on their roster could be affiliated players. Nothing has been finalized, but there remains that possibility.
“I think it begins with defining the relationship with MLB and how it extends to relationships with individual MLB clubs—whether there is a conduit for players coming from the Pioneer League to MLB clubs and from MLB clubs to the Pioneer Leagues," Shapiro said. "That’s a critical metric for the success of the league."
Shapiro comes to the Pioneer League from the Baltimore Orioles, where he was an executive vice president who had been working on developing for the team a new academy in the Dominican Republic. He had been president and general manager of the independent Pacific Association’s San Rafael Pacifics before that. He had also worked as a vice president with the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants previously, as well as stints with Turner Broadcasting and Nike.
“It’s been a great, well-established and well-operated league," Shapiro said. "How exciting is it to take that wonderful establishment and to then take it to the next level, to help advance and secure its future? That’s why I took the gig."