- When Gabe was 8 years old, he got hit by a car. After that, he needed therapy to deal with his fear if crossing the street.
During his first college experience, at Cal State-Fullerton, Kapler made no dent on the program and was gone after a short stay. He admits, "I played around too much off the field."
That helped make his approach to the pro game much more purposeful than most players. Gabe is a competitor, is very strong, has leadership quailties, and comes to play the game every day. His hustle separates him from most others.
Kapler says he wasted his time "partying a little bit, not going to class at all," downng double cheeseburgers, fries and industrial-sized sodas from the Del Taco next to his dorm, then drinking cheap malt liquor at night. The Titans' coach, the late Augie Garrido, called him into his office one day.
"You're not ready for this program," he said. "You're better off at a junior college."
Kapler left and called his father, "Dad, I just lost my scholarship," he said. "I'm coming home."
"I knew I had blown a real opportunity, but it was one of the biggest turning points in my life," says Kapler. "It was a huge wake-up call for me."
Gabe enrolled at Moorpark College, in Ventura County. In 1995, the Tigers selected Gapler in the 57th round, a round that no longer exists. Of the 143 players picked in the 16 drafts with a 57th round, between 1965 and 1997, only one who signed made the big leagues: Kapler.
Kapler's all-out, hustling style is impressive. He plays as hard as any player in the game ans is a positive influence in the clubhouse.
YOU SHOULD SEE HIM WITHOUT A SHIRT
- In high school, Gabe was a cigarettes-and-beer guy. Then he hit the weights -- to compensate for his insecurities from just being a teenager and a few leftover fears from that childhood car accident.
- Kapler looks more like a bodybuilder than a baseball player. But his weightlifting program is geared more toward baseball than what it used to be. He is not tight. Gabe is proof you can have a body like that and not be musclebound. He eats right and stays in great physical condition.
- He appeared on the cover of the September 1998 issue of Men's Exercise, and before that had a spread in another magazine called Men's Workout. His physique is that impressive.
- Gabe is into flaxseed—energy pills that provide essential fatty acids. He hates the taste of them, but loves the results. He gained eight pounds in eight weeks while dropping his body fat from 5.8% to 3.5%.
Kapler says he has never, and would never, take steroids. But the suspicion always exists because of his great physique. "I believe strongly that it stems from jealousy of some sort," Gabe said. "It's also a compliment."
Kapler doesn't even drink coffee. He does take lots of multivitamins and supplements—even creatine.
- In 1997, Kapler led the Florida State League in doubles and tied for first in extra-base hits (153), tied for third in homers and RBI, and was fourth in slugging (.505) and runs (87).
In 1998, Gabe was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year. He led all of minor league baseball with 146 RBI, shattering the Southern League's old mark of 132. He also set loop marks in extra-base hits (80), total bases (315), and doubles. And he was the SL MVP.
Oh yeah, he also led the league in homers, hits, and runs.
- Kapler says that Rusty Greer was his role model, and he tried to emulate the hustling Rangers outfielder. "Just because of the way he plays the game -- the way he carries himself out there," Gabe said a few years ago, when they were teammates. "He just pours his heart out on the field."
- Kapler lists basketball, and acting among his hobbies.
- Gabe says he'd love to pursue an acting career when his baseball days are over. "I would really love to act on the stage or screen in the future. If things go well in my baseball career, that could fall into place," Kapler said.
- Gabe is confident, but in a quiet way, and gets along well with his teammates. He has tremendous heart and drive. He is mentally tough.
Gabe is a big believer in positive thinking. And he reads a lot.
Gabe and his wife welcomed their first child, son Chase, in October 1999.
- When he was a kid, Kapler told his mother that he was going to be an athlete and an actor. "What a blow to every Jewish mother's dream of job security," Judy Kapler said.
- He is not that religious, nor into Judaism. But if he is an inspiration to Jews, that is OK with him.
Kapler takes pride in being recognized as a Jewish baseball player and likes the idea of Jewish youngsters seeing him as a role model or inspiration to try to make athletics a career. He does admit, however, that he isn't the most devout member of his faith.
"It would be misleading and hypocritical for me to say I'm practicing and I go to temple and I do X, Y and Z, because that's not true,'' he said. "I identify much more with the race and the culture and the bloodline of it. We're really considered a race—and that's where I feel the strong, powerful connection and loyalty.''
It hasn't always been that way. For the first decade of his life, Kapler actually celebrated Christmas and his family had a Christmas tree in its Southern California home. "I grew up in a blue-collar, racially diverse neighborhood and that's just the way it was,'' he said. "I loved Christmas. It was awesome -- but then it just stopped when my mom decided to celebrate being a Jew.''
Michael and Judy Kapler were free spirit—"hippies'' according to their son—and they weren't heavily involved in any organized religious activities for many years.
When Judy got a job as director of a Jewish preschool in North Hollywood, things began to change. She began to have an awakening to the importance of her religion and culture, and the impact it had had on her ancestors and society in general. (Judy Kapler remains deeply involved in synagogue Adat Ari El, in North Hollywood.) Gabe eventually was sent to Hebrew school. He had his Bar Mitzvah at 13.
"My family's of Russian descent and I don't know if any were lost, but I've known other people who have lost family members in the Holocaust,'' Kapler said.
- Gabe says his favorite player when he was a kid was Fred McGriff, when he was with the Blue Jays. And also George Bell and Lloyd Moseby.
- Kapler says his all-time favorite movie is "Seven."
- Gabe had a Major League season-high 28 game hitting streak end August 16, 2000.
In a move to get him out of a dreadful 0-for-20 and 4-for-50 slump, Kapler shaved his head near the end of June 2001.
"I had to change my mood," he said. "I've done this every year. I try to pick a time when I need a change. I did it in the minor leagues, I did it in Detroit, and I did it here (with the Rangers)." He went two-for-three in his first game.
- Gabe believes his best years are ahead of him. In 2002 Spring Training, he said, "I still don't believe I've scratched the surface. I'm still waiting for that player that I think I can be. Actually, I'm not waiting. I'm being proactive and trying to find him. I know he's in there. I just have to find him."
"There is a certain image that has been portrayed, and it's never really been me," Kapler said. "On the field I want to be thought of as a guy who does things the right way and plays hard. So I don't have a problem with that image. But at heart, I am a Southern California kid. Those influences are imbedded in me."
BIG TATTOO FAN
- Kapler likes body art. Eight tattoos are scattered across Kapler's body, the most visible on his legs. Each has deep significance, tied to family, religion or in the case of his "Man Up" art, motivation. "You aren't going to find a picture of a snake or Mighty Mouse," Kapler said. "I don't have any that are meaningless."
- Kapler was 18 when he decided to get his first tattoo, a kind of graduation from the platinum blond hair and earrings of his childhood. Of course, he didn't tell his parents, though "they were both kind of hippies in the 1960s who have always encouraged expression," Kapler admitted. Even now, Kapler can't believe what he did.
After dating for three months, Kapler and his girlfriend decided to get their names tattooed on each other's bodies on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Only 17, she was turned away. But Kapler went through with the plan, splashing "Lisa" across his left biceps.
"If I could go back and understand what it meant to have somebody's name tattooed on your body, I probably wouldn't have done it at that point," Kapler said with a grin. "It could have been disastrous." But, Kapler averted a huge mistake, because his instincts didn't betray him. Almost 10 years later, Gabe and Lisa are married, with two sons. She has a tattoo of his name on her stomach, and both have matching wedding bands in dark ink.
- Kapler admitted his original motivation to get a tattoo was about testosterone as much as teenage hormones. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Kapler associated tattoos with toughness. "It was about street credibility," Kapler said. "That was the way I felt back then. But I fell into the whole process. Each time it was like getting a new haircut, a new conversation piece."
- The past decade, Kapler has steadily, if not conspicuously, added tattoos. His artwork is hidden when he's in uniform. That's not a total accident. As tattoos have become more popular, Kapler doesn't want to be considered someone following a fad. And besides, "People look at you differently when you have them."
Kapler's strong bond to his California home, where he was a skater and punk rocker, fostered his interest in tattoos. But as he became more fascinated by the culture, the tattoos became more personal. He has his two boys' initials on his body - CTK and DRK. There's a Japanese symbol for brotherhood that he got with his older brother Jeremy, and the numbers 818 are discreetly plastered on his leg.
"That's the area code where I am from," Kapler said. "A lot of people talk about wanting to go over the hill, to move to the city. But I have always loved the Valley, the strip malls, the graffiti, the ethnic diversity."
- His most prominent tattoos center on his Jewish faith. He has the Star of David with a message in Hebrew, which translated, means strong mind, strong will. The words "Never Again" also are written on right shin, with the dates of the Holocaust. "More than being religious, my being Jewish is a representation of where I came from," Kapler said. "I feel a strong allegiance to and responsibility to stand up for who I am."
- Kapler is running out of room for ink on his body. He got a tattoo on his lower leg, depicting a violent storm, symbolizing the emotional trials of baseball. He added a peaceful, serene setting during the 2004 All-Star break (detailed below).
Gabe really doesn't remember why he did the following foolish deed. He was young, a freshman at Taft High School in California, going through a period of rebellion.
One summer night he and a friend went to a Dodgers game at Chavez Ravine. Both were baseball fans, and his buddy's favorite player was Darryl Strawberry. Somewhere along the line, the two teenagers decided that watching Strawberry paled to actually meeting him. "So we hopped over the gate down the first-base line," Kapler recalled. "And the next thing we know, we are sitting in the dugout."
Kapler, wearing his high school letter jacket, remembers seeing Strawberry and blending in unnoticed for about a minute before a player barked out, "You know you kids can get arrested for being in here, right?" The two, wide-eyed kids zoomed out of the dugout up the stairs and out of the stadium before being apprehended. Though they got away with the prank. "We weren't trying to harm anyone," he said. Kapler admitted he neither understood the magnitude of their egregious behavior, calling it foolish.
Kapler told the above story as he watched highlights of a fan bolt from the stands the night of April 15, 2003 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago and attack first-base umpire Laz Diaz.
An even uglier scene played out September 19, 2002 when a father and son assaulted Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa. Kapler said it was ridiculous how easily he had gotten onto the field, and emphasized that security measures have grown much tighter since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "I have never felt unsafe on the field," Kapler said. "It's something you don't even think about. What happened in Chicago, I see all those as isolated incidents. You have to, or it would make it very difficult to do your job."
- Gabe showed up at the ball park May 15, 2004 with a shaved head. He didn't want to talk about it much, but did concede it was mainly a matter of superstition. Kapler is off to a rough start at the plate, hitting .235 with one homer and five RBIs, when he had the "close encounter" with a barber.
- During the All-Star break in July 2004, Kapler got a tattoo on his left calf of the San Fernando Valley coming up the 405 from Los Angeles. It has buildings and mountains bathed in bright sunshine. It is positive and peaceful, unlike the tattoo on his right calf. It has dark clouds, rain and lightning.
During the 2004 season, when the Red Sox were at home, he would ride his bicycle to Fenway Park, a 5-mile trip, mostly on Route 9. He would take a left at Brookline Avenue, taking about 25 minutes to make the trip, helmet on his head.
In a sport populated by the portly likes of Sidney Ponson and Bartolo Colon, Kapler is more ripped than any NFL cornerback. He started hitting the weight room when he was 19 and still pumps iron four or five times a week for 20-25 minutes after games. The rest is diet and good genes -- though he says he'll occasionally eat a hamburger or a piece of cheesecake. Body-by-Gabe invites questions and wisecracks about steroids. "I used to take offense," he said. "But I was young and didn't know how to take the ragging of baseball. I've learned not to be reactionary. It's really a compliment when you get down to it." (Dan Shaughnessy-Boston Globe-7/20/04)
Kapler exudes genuine joy. He is a great guy to have in the clubhouse and just plain nice to be around. Guys like Curt Schilling have said, "He's one of my favorite teammates of all time."
November 1999: The Rangers sent OF Juan Gonzalez, P Danny Patterson and C Greg Zaun to the Tigers to acquire Gabe, pitchers Justin Thompson, Francisco Cordero and Alan Webb, C Bill Haselman, and INF Frank Catalanotto.
2001: Kapler signed a three-year, $5.6 million contract with the Rangers.
July 2002: The Rockies sent OF Todd Hollandsworth and P Denys Reyes to the Rangers, acquiring Kapler and INF Jason Romano.
June 2003: The Rockies released Gabe.
"As an organization, we felt the release was in the best interests of Gabe," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said in the official announcement. "He is a Major League player and we could not give him a Major League opportunity." Kapler appreciated the move. "I was treated like absolute gold in Colorado," Kapler said. "I was always told the truth. I walked away with the feeling that people always cared about me and my well-being. This just wasn't the place for me right now."
June 24, 2003: Kapler signed with the Red Sox.
December 22, 2003: The Red Sox signed Gabe to a $750,000 one-year contract, a day after the team non-tendered him. It was a procedure they had to follow. Kapler wanted to stay with Boston, and they wanted him, but had to get around the rule that limits pay cuts to 20 percent. Gabe earned $3.4 million in 2003. His 2004 contract includes performance bonuses in addition to the $750,000 base salary.
November 21, 2004: Kapler agreed to a one-year contract with the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo."He spent the better part of a week really agonizing over the decision," agent Paul Cohen said.
July 8, 2005: Yomiuri released Kapler after he had spent a month on the team's inactive list and had only managed a .153 batting average for the season.
- July 16, 2005: Kapler signed with the Red Sox again. Boston manager Terry Francona, like almost everyone in the clubhouse, was excited to have Kapler back.
"Gabe, more than just on the field, he's the ultimate teammate," Francona said. "He does some duties on a team that aren't the most, I don't want to say popular, but aren't the most glamorous. The things that maybe partially got in the way of Jay [Payton] handling his role here. Gabe does those things voluntarily and enthusiastically. I know he was a favorite out in that clubhouse, and he was kind of a favorite in here, too."
December 20, 2007: After spending the 2007 season as the manager of the Greenville Drive (SAL-Red Sox) in the low Class A South Atlantic League, Gabe signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Brewers and resumed his playing career.
"Managing was incredible for me this year,” Kapler said at the time of his decision. “I learned so much about baseball, about the young men I had an opportunity to lead, and about myself. Ultimately, the experience reawakened the competitor in me. I miss the battle. I still need to be on the field as a player.
"My body is as healthy as it has ever been, and I must take advantage of that," he said. "Managing was an important component of my development, and I am eternally grateful to the Red Sox for having provided me the opportunity to tackle a new challenge."
- October 30, 2008: Gabe filed for free agency.
- January 12, 2008: Kapler signed a one-year, $1,000,018 contract with the Rays. The extra 18 representing Kapler's lucky number, as well as a symbol of life, or chai, in the Jewish community.
- October 27, 2009: Gabe signed a one-year contract with the Rays. This one was for $1,050,000.
January 18, 2011: Kapler signed with the Dodgers.
- September 2012: Kapler played for Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament.
December 2016: Kapler committed to play for team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Gabe didn't come into the 2008 expecting any specific results. He came back after a year as a manager because he missed the game, not to achieve some statistical goal.
“Coming into this season without expectations was really good for me,” he said. “I didn’t really have any, so there’s nothing really to be disappointed about. I was just going to roll with it no matter what. It’s given me the ability to enjoy every moment and be in a state of gratitude.”
Yost, speaking from personal experience, thinks the year away from playing helped Kapler in another way.
“It’s his ability to be prepared for any situation; it’s his mind-set,” Yost said. “He doesn’t let little things like not playing every day affect him. He prepares to be ready for any situation he’s called (for).”
Kapler said the things he learned from his year managing were much more complex than that, but agreed that the new perspective didn’t hurt. (Anthony Witrado-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-8/13/08)
Before 2010 spring training, Kapler discussed his training and diet regimen:
"We're all made up differently," Gabe said. "Some people need to step on the gas pedal a little bit, and some people need to apply the brakes. And I think I'm just one of those guys -- as it relates to my nutrition, my health and my fitness -- I'm the type of guy who just needs to apply the brakes more. I've really realized that especially over the last three years.
"Life is a lesson in balance. Life is about kind of keeping things in harmony. When you feel way out of whack, you kind of have to make an adjustment."
Diet is a key component to anybody's fitness regimen, and Kapler's routine is no exception. On any given day, Kapler can be seen in the clubhouse munching on his special cereal, a particular kind of peanut butter or various nutrition bars. But he also embraces the idea that being too strict in one's diet is taboo.
"I don't think it makes any sense to be so strict in your eating that you have no flexibility and you're not enjoying it any more," Kapler said. "Because that's out of balance and you end up paying a price for it. I think the training is the same way.
"And my workouts are so much different now," Kapler said. "My rep schemes used to be to do eight to 12 to 15 reps, because that's how you build muscle size. But now I understand that in baseball, we don't do anything eight times, we don't do anything 12 times; it's all one, short, quick movement. So now all my rep schemes are much smaller. They're sets of two and three."
According to Kapler, fewer repetitions translate to less of a toll on his body, which allows him to remain healthy. Kapler used as an example a "full body lift and power clean" -- an exercise that incorporates the muscles of the entire body -- to illustrate his mind-set while training.
"It might be just one or two reps," Kapler said. "I just want to have a perfect rep without compromising any muscles or any tendons. And within that perfect form, I want to perform the act quickly. I want it to be an explosive movement instead of seeing how much weight I can put on the bar.
"I want everything I'm doing now to be moving fast, because in baseball, that's what we do. And it took me a long time to figure that out. And this offseason is the first time I've trained with that in mind. Right now, my mind-set is to train for short, explosive bursts. Next year, my thing might be to train for balance or maybe for just speed."
Flexibility is a primary focus of his workouts, as well. Kapler begins every workout with a 20-minute flexibility routine and he ends his workouts with an additional 20-minute flexibility routine. Taking the flexibility a step further, Kapler rolls a piece of PVC pipe over his muscles before going to bed as "a way to kind of manipulate the muscles in conjunction with an active stretching program." (Bill Chastain-MLB.com-1/07/10)
- When the Phillies hired Kapler, Brewers executive Doug Melvin, who traded for Kapler in Texas and signed him as a free agent in Milwaukee, told Phillies president Andy MacPhail, "My only worry is he is so full of energy and there isn't somebody there who can say, 'Gabe, just tone it down a bit.'"Kapler was so hell-bent as a player that he once ruptured his Achilles rounding second base -- on a teammate's home run."I like Gabe. He just goes hard at everything," Melvin says. "It's about him; and when you're managing, it shouldn't be about you. There are going to be stories about him because he is polarizing. I know there are some people rooting against him. I hope he does well."
|Birth City:||Hollywood, CA|
|Draft:||Tigers #57 - 1995 - Out of Moorpark JUCO (CA)|
|2007||-||Did Not Play|
- Gabe has good power and also hits for a good batting average. Kapler has excellent strike zone knowledge. He is a good two-strike hitter who works himself into a good count.
- He drives the ball into the gaps. He seems to do much better when there are runners on base.
- Gabe no longer lunges while trying to pull every pitch. He stays back well now. "If I'm concentrating on using the whole field, I'm successful," Kapler said.
- He has a natural power lift in his swing. But sometimes he stops his power with a swing in which his left arm is locked almost from the start.
Kapler is mentally tough. He can look bad on one pitch, and he doesn't quit -- doesn't give up an at-bat. And he doesn't make excuses. He has trouble hitting the curveball and off-speed stuff.
WORKING ON HIS SWING
Starting in 2000 with the Rangers, Gabe learned to relax his hands much more at the plate. He had such a death grip on the bat before, with the Tigers, that his biceps would pop out on his arms because of the strain.
Texas hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo had him keep his head still, stay balanced, and relax his hands. He can now drive the inside fastball.
- Gabe had a poor first half in 2000, just four homers and .245 batting average. But he spent the All Star break reconstructing his swing with Rangers' hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who added a leg kick to Kapler's stride to keep him from starting his swing too early. And he dominated the second half.
- Kapler is not an instinctive player. His highly mechanical swing looks gangly and awkward. But he works hard to stay under control. His swing is full of moving parts and trigger points and he admittedly overanalyzes mistakes. Most of his slumps are due to "fixing" too many parts of his swing.
In 2003, Gabe changed his approach, shortening his swing. "I have always felt like I had several different swings throughout the season. Now I believe I have a practice swing that I can duplicate in the game, which should eliminate the tinkering," Kapler said. "The reason I didn't have the production I need in 2002 is that I wasn't making solid contact enough. I am strong enough that if I make solid contact I am going to drive the ball."
- Kapler has average speed. In fact, he has been timed as fast as 4.1 seconds running to first base, above-average speed for a righthanded batter.
- In 2001, he stole his all-time high 23 bases, getting caught only 6 times.
- He runs all-out, all the time, taking the extra base when he can.
- In 2000, he stopped sliding head-first into bases.
- He goes back on the ball real well. He is excellent at tracking balls over his head, in fact. But he doesn't have great speed.
- Gabe sometimes plays with a reckless abandon, when a little more control might make him a better fielder. He gets a good read on the ball, but sometimes he dives for one that he might not really have to dive for—a somewhat theatrical move. Sometimes one of those will get by him.
Despite never having played third base as a professional, Gabe played several games at the hot corner during 2004 spring training with the Red Sox and made several spectacular plays.
He hadn't appeared at third base since 1995 at Moorpark Junior College in California.
- Kapler drew much praise for his defense. He really gives 100 percent in the outfield.
His arm is very good. And it is accurate.
- Kapler also likes to show off his arm making a throw that he doesn't need to make. However, Gabe is not that far away from being a Gold Glove candidate. The Rangers worked on toning down his play so that he would be more in control.
- As of the start of the 2011 season, Kapler's career batting average was .268 with 82 home runs and 386 RBI in 2,983 at-bats.
Gabe is very cerebral. While on rehab assignments in 2005 and 2006, Kapler discovered a love for teaching the game's next generation. So he was ready to take the next step and start his managing career in 2007.
"It's much more fulfilling to be thinking about other people," he said. "I had one of the best offseasons I've ever had. I'm not in a hurry, that's the bottom line. I want to be good at what I do, and right now that means helping guys become better players."
Returning to the minor leagues has caused Kapler to reevaluate his goals. When he ascended the minors as the Tigers' top prospect, his focus was always on the future, causing him to miss out on the present.
"I think I was consistently looking too far out as a player," he said. "As a manager, I'm committed to enjoying the process. I was so focused on getting to the next level that I wasn't there. I'm not going to do that this time." (John Tomase-Baseball America-2/23/07)
Kapler knows what it feels like to be on the wrong side of the language barrier.
“When I went to Japan in 2005, the baseball was nearly the same, but I was very used to communicating in the clubhouse,” Kapler said. “When that element was removed for me, I felt very out of my skin and that translated to poor performance on the field.
“I’m not saying it was the only reason (he hit .153 in 38 games for Yomiuri), but it was certainly a contributing factor.”
The Dodgers are taking steps this season to remove that hurdle for young players from Latin America making their way through the system. When Kapler announced the minor league coaching assignments for 2015, it included expanded staffs at each of the Dodgers’ six affiliates.
Instead of the three-man staffs that are prevalent throughout the minors—a manager, pitching coach and one additional coach—the Dodgers will have four-man staffs at each of their affiliates, with at least one Spanish-speaking coach on each staff.
“Cultural assimilation, for us organizationally, is as important as any other element in player development,” Kapler said. “We want to make certain we have systems in place for guys for whom English is a second language to assimilate comfortably so they can feel their most comfortable.” (Bill Plunkett - Baseball America - 2/13/2015)
Nov 2, 2017: Did anybody else get the feeling that Gabe Kapler has no problems mingling and conversing with strangers at a party? Kapler has a big, outgoing personality. He is no introvert, but the Phillies like that about him. Kapler's desire to connect with people is one reason they hired him as manager.
"It has to be used right," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said when asked about the value of a big personality in the clubhouse. "I think there have been a lot of big personalities in sports that for one reason or another have not succeeded. But personality by itself can be a good thing, and the total package that Gabe brings to the table is going to be a good thing for us."
Arguably, it is easier to work with a roster full of mostly inexperienced players than a roster full of mostly veterans. Young players are impressionable. They want to stick. They are less likely to rock the boat. Players mature over time. They gain experience. They make more money. They acquire their own strong opinions. In other words, a clubhouse with Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford, and Aaron Nola is different than a clubhouse with Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee. But Kapler thinks his style will work, even as the roster evolves into a more experienced, more highly paid one. How?
"By focusing on the environment," Kapler said. "It's not that we're not focusing on the player, but one of the things that you see very infrequently is us ignore the mechanics of the swing. We very infrequently ignore game strategy, but we will ignore building a healthy culture where people like coming to work. Whether that be young players or old players, everyone likes coming to work with people that they enjoy being around. Everyone likes coming to work and having the freedom to be who they are, and they're not going to be hammered down because they're not the version that you want them to be.
"The way we manage young players and veteran players is by creating great environments for them to develop in."
A perception about new managers, especially ones on analytically inclined teams, is that the front office dictates lineups, philosophies for managing the game, and more. Hey, this guy has pitched too many times in the past week. Stay away from him tonight. Klentak said while it is important that the manager and front office have a shared ideology, he is not going to control the game from the GM box.
"I am a firm believer in boundaries," Klentak said. "And I think we have to be very careful that those lines don't get blurred between the general manager and a manager, or a coaching staff and the front office. The players need to know that the manager is the individual who is writing out the lineup, who is deciding on pitching changes and playing time, and that is not coming from the front office.
"It's OK for the front office to be around the clubhouse and be accessible and conversational with players -- and that has happened and will continue to happen -- but I believe strongly in the fact that the Major League manager has to have the autonomy to prepare for the game and run the game." (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Nov 3, 2017)
Feb 7, 2018: The 2018 season should be one of the most interesting Phillies campaigns in recent memory, but not because they are expected to compete for the World Series championship. That is not the expectation.
It should be interesting because manager Gabe Kapler is interesting. He is unlike any previous skipper in team history because he might be the most unconventional.
MLB.com is asking all 30 teams: What will be the most exciting storyline in Spring Training? That is easy for the Phils: Kapler. Kapler, 42, has a strong personality and a wide range of interests. He is steeped in analytics. How many other managers in the big leagues have written for Baseball Prospectus? Kapler is passionate about fitness and nutrition. How many other managers have had a lifestyle blog? He has hinted at turning traditional bullpen usage on its head. Kapler is confident he can keep everybody happy in a crowded outfield. He is a big believer in connecting with his players, which means one-on-one conversations, text messages and tweets.
Kapler has offered some glimpses into how things might work based on interviews since his hiring in late October 2017, but Spring Training will be the first opportunity to truly see his personality and style in action. Will it be totally different than Spring Trainings past? Or are there really only so many new things a manager can do? In other words, how different will life with Kapler be?
So far everybody from players to former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel have been impressed with Kapler's presence and communication skills. But how will players respond to Kapler in the coming weeks and months, if he challenges players to truly think differently?
"It's undoubtedly true that I believe that a bullpen and a roster and a lineup works best when players are feeling like flexibility is the way to go," Kapler said. "The mindset can and will be one of flexibility, and I am not married to any specific role because that isn't mental toughness. If I can only do one thing, that's not a very mentally tough way to start." Kapler believes his players will respond quite well to his philosophies, whether the roster is full of inexperienced players trying to stick in the big leagues or a roster full of veterans with strong personalities like Pat Burrell, Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee.
"By focusing on the environment," said Kapler, when asked how he achieves that goal. "We very infrequently ignore game strategy, but we will ignore building a healthy culture where people like coming to work. Whether that be young players or old players, everyone likes coming to work with people that they enjoy being around. Everyone likes coming to work and having the freedom to be who they are, and they're not going to be hammered down because they're not the version that you want them to be. The way we manage young players and veteran players is by creating great environments for them to develop in." (T Zolecki - MLB.com - Feb 7, 2018)
Feb 16, 2018: There is a small bluetooth speaker set up in the hallway outside Phillies manager Gabe Kapler's office at Spectrum Field. It plays music softly throughout the day, filling an otherwise empty concrete passageway.
The music in the Phillies' clubhouse is louder. The music at Carpenter Complex, which also played last spring, is louder than that. Music has been a constant companion to the Phillies the first week of camp. That will not change.
"I believe strongly that mood is enhanced by music," Kapler said. "One of the ways we decide on the music: We ask all our players, 'What do you like to listen to? What makes you feel strong during your workouts?' We ask them after the workouts. 'Hey, how was the music today? More volume? Less volume? Did you hear something that you liked?'
"When we're surrounded by music, we feel good. We smile more. When we smile more, we're more relaxed at the plate. There is science behind this. It's not a theory. It's been studied. Workplaces are happier and they're more inspired when music is playing." Every type of music is represented.
"[A lack of variety] wouldn't appreciate the diversity we have on our roster and the diversity we have on our coaching staff," Kapler said. "We're not trying to cater to one individual. We're trying to cater to our environment." Kapler said he comes from a musical family.
"My dad is a music teacher," Kapler said. "He is a classical musician. He's a piano teacher. He has written music. He's written children's music. My mom is an early childhood educator. I grew up with music in my house all the time. And if you ever come into my office, there will be music playing. In my home, I have music playing all the time. Mostly because it makes me feel strong."
And what is his type of music? "If you come into my office, you might hear some John Lee Hooker or, early in the morning, some Norah Jones as I drink coffee," Kapler said. "It's eclectic." (T Zolecki - M LB.com - Feb 16, 2018)
- Kapler became the Phillies manager despite having only one year of experience as skipper of the low-A Greenville Drive (SAL-Red Sox).
"He's a salesman" one L.A. staffer said about Gabe. "Salesman is a dangerous leadership trait. Finding the right dial setting is a matter of common sense. On a scale of one to 10, Gabe always wants to be a 10, when the truth is, six fits a lot."
"Someone from the front office needs to say they understand there may be some mistakes in Gabe's development as a manager, and they will sit down and address it," one rival executive says. "He has to focus less on nutrition, sleep rooms, conditioning (and) education of analytics and focus on game management. No one will second-guess what fatty food are being served."
Kapler is a walking search engine. Each of his decisions is likely to be backed by some research that he's done or some quotation that he's found.
"If you ask me what my hobby is, I don't have a traditional hobby," Gabe says. "I'm not a golfer. I don't fish. I don't even watch TV. You give me a block of two hours? I want to sit down and drink coffee and scour information, just because I'm interested in it.
"I might research whether people really enjoy coming to work more when there's music playing. The answer in my opinion is yes. And what I've come to find is there is some science to back that up." (Tom Verducci - Sports Illustrated - 4/23/2018)
POST-PLAYING CAREER POSITIONS
2007: Kapler began his managerial career as Manager of the Greenville Drive (SAL-Red Sox).
2015: Gabe became Farm Director for the L.A. Dodgers.
Kapler fits the profile of the people Andrew Friedman has surrounded himself with since taking over as president of baseball operations—bright, energetic and open-minded to new ways of doing things. Gabe is the rare former player who had a sophisticated understanding of statistical analysis in player evaluation and team building.
“Gabe has a tremendous mind, a thirst for knowledge, and he’s a great leader of people,” Friedman said.
October 30, 2017: The Phillies hired Kapler as their Manager.
- March 2, 2018: As first-year Phillies manager Gabe Kapler walked in from right field, from the clubhouse to the dugout for the pregame workout, he stopped to shake hands and say hello to several people along the way. Ushers, stadium workers, media members. Kapler ended his 12-year playing career after two seasons with the Rays, in 2009-10. He then spent three seasons as a special assignment scout with Tampa Bay. Returning to Charlotte Sports Park, the Rays' Spring Training home, was a reunion of sorts for him.
"It really seems like yesterday. In a lot of ways, it seems very comfortable," Kapler said. "Seeing [the clubhouse attendants], really good to be around them again. It's a cool place to be. I'm looking forward to seeing Erik [Neander, the Rays' general manager] and Chaim [Bloom, the Rays' senior vice president of baseball operations] and everybody, for that matter." Tampa Bay's front office helped shape Kapler's way of looking at the game.
"I'd been thinking about [managing] long before putting on a Rays uniform," Kapler said. "Really, more as a bench player you start thinking about those things and you start thinking along with the manager in the game."I think the way I personally analyze baseball was shaped heavily by the Boston front office and then the Rays' front office," said Kapler, who played for the Red Sox from 2003-06 and managed in their Minor League sytem in 2007.
So far, what is Kapler's biggest challenge in his new role? "Hours in the day, without question," he said. "There are just so many things you want to work on." Kapler is learning to give his mind a rest at the end of the day. "That's another challenge," he said. "Right now, I shut the bathroom door and sit for five minutes at a time and just breathe and have a moment." (M Mullen - MLB.com - March 2, 2018)
May 4, 2000: Kapler went on the D.L. with a torn quadriceps muscle. And he reinjured it May 23 while on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma.
Gabe's 2000 season ended in September, when he was diagnosed with a lesion in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. The lesion was a partial tear of muscle that could lead to long-term instability in the shoulder area.
- March 22, 2001: Kapler tore the quadriceps muscle in his right leg while running to first base during an exhibition game and started the season on the D.L. He was activated April 22.
- June 24, 2002: Gabe went on the D.L. with tendinitis in his left wrist. He was reactivated July 16.
June, 2005: Kapler was on the Injured List while playing in Japan.
When the Red Sox signed Gabe on July 16, 2005, they immediately put him on the D.L. with a strained lower back.
September 14, 2005: Kapler ruptured his left Achilles tendon while rounding 2nd base after teammate Tony Graffanino hit a home run in a Red Sox win over the Blue Jays in Toronto. It was very bizarre to blow out an Achilles running ahead of a teammate who hit a home run.
''I can't really describe it other than it felt like I got hit or popped in the back of my ankle," he said.
Dr. Lewis Yocum, the renowned sports doctor who serves as the team physician for the Angels, performed surgery to repair the Achilles tendon September 20, 2005.
- March-April 2006: Gabe started the season on the D.L., rehabbing his repaired Achilles tendon.
- April 2008: Gabe had a bruised right shoulder.
September 10, 2008: Kapler suffered a right shoulder strain and had to leave the Brewers game with the Reds because he could not throw the ball.
An MRI revealed that Kapler has a torn latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder. The injury is similar to the one suffered in August 2005 by Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets, who was plagued for a couple of seasons by shoulder issues afterward.
- June 12-29, 2010: Gabe was on the D.L. with a flexor strain in his right hip.
- August 16, 2010: Kapler was on the D.L. with a sprained right ankle. He apparently was injured in a home-plate collision with Baltimore's Matt Wieters.