Gabe Kapler was at a crossroads.
Playing in 2006 for the Boston Red Sox, Kapler had come back from an Achilles’ tear and recalled, “I wasn’t very good. Didn’t have a lot of push. Wasn’t as athletic as I wanted to be. The Red Sox, I think, thought — and for good reason — that my career might be over.”
When the season ended, after consulting with Red Sox execs Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington and Mike Hazen, Kapler became aware of an opportunity to manage the Greenville Drive, Boston’s Low-A affiliate in South Carolina. Kapler was asked if he knew anyone who might be interested.
“I didn’t get it right away,” Kapler said. “But I remember calling Ben back and saying, ‘Should I really look in the mirror here? What are you telling me?”
At age 31, Kapler was back in the low minors as a first-time manager, molding young players.
“I loved the minors,” Kapler said. “Loved the buses. Loved the cheap hotels.”
It lasted one year. As Kapler rehabbed physically, he decided to give the majors one more shot. He played one year for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 and two for the Tampa Bay Rays before retiring after the 2010 season.
He coached the Israeli national team in 2013, and was a director of player development with the Dodgers from 2014 through 2017, but didn’t manage again until the Philadelphia Phillies hired him in 2018 and fired him after two seasons.
With a 161-163 record in two seasons with the Phillies, plus a 29-31 record with the Giants last year in a shortened season, Kapler’s 107-55 regular-season record came out of nowhere.
But it began somewhere — and that somewhere was Greenville.
I reached out to three of his former players with the Drive — Franklin Pierce University (New Hampshire) coach Mike Chambers, Mississippi attorney Jon Still and Pittsburgh Pirates coordinator of minor league operations T.J. Large — to get an idea of what it was like to play for Kapler in 2007.
Chambers was an infielder in his second and final year of pro baseball. Still was a catcher who led the Drive with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs. Large was a right-handed pitcher with a 1-2 record and 3.65 ERA in 17 games.
Getting after it
On a hot summer day in Savannah, Ga., Kapler thought infielders weren’t taking their infield reps seriously enough and wanted to prove a point.
Large: “Gabe was throwing batting practice, took the glove from Argenis Cruz, jumped in at shortstop and started diving in his white cutoff T-shirt. It wasn’t aggressive. It wasn’t intimidating. The message was play with a purpose, practice with a purpose. The game will come easier that way.”
Chambers: “I was at second, he was at short and I thought it was kind of fun that he was out there with us. I didn’t process why he was doing it. But when we got into the locker room he basically lit everybody up, like, ‘We’re in the middle of the season and the work ethic is not there. We’re …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports
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