Kapler adjusting to new role as skipper
Former Boston outfielder now teaching Red Sox prospects
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Every day during camp at the Red Sox complex on Edison Avenue, Minor League players take the field immediately after the Major Leaguers have finished their work for the day.
Gabe Kapler knows this better than anyone, because now he is now making the somewhat rare transition from Major League player to Minor League coach in the Red Sox system, rare mostly because he's only 31.
After nine big-league seasons, Kapler retired on Dec. 12 and accepted the job as manager of the Class A Greenville Drive.
"It's been phenomenal and very rewarding," the former Red Sox outfielder said of his move to the coaching ranks this spring. "The early returns suggest that this is just what I was hoping for. [I] wake up every day with the mind-set that I'm going to find somebody to help make better."
This spring has resembled a boot camp for Kapler, whose busy daily regiment begins before sunrise.
"I'm here at 6:15 in the morning and leaving late," he said. "All day long, I'm really trying to focus on being around players or coaches that I can steal some insight from, whether it be DeMarlo Hale on how to coach third base or Mike Hazen with his experience with managers and coaches in the past or [Red Sox manager Terry Francona] about his experience, or some of the Minor League staff who have been so helpful in reaching out to me and getting me through some of the early growing pains."
Getting into a daily routine is important to Kapler.
"I actually have a really nice perspective now, because my day has a really good flow to it," Kapler said. "Early on in the day, it's a workout, which is basically for my own benefit, and then following that directly, I'll have breakfast, and usually that will be with the Major League guys, which has been my fill. It's kind of given me my start on the day where I've gotten to interact with some of my old teammates and at least still feel that connection, which puts a big smile on my face and sends me right into my day."
When Kapler announced his decision to make a move to coaching in the Minors, many wondered how he would make the transition.
"I think my passion has stayed even at this point, and it's been at a really high level from the first day, and I don't anticipate it going anywhere," he said. "I'm hesitant to go overboard, because early on the excitement can become somewhat of a honeymoon. I think I'd probably like to make an evaluation in six months or so."
Kapler is starting to get a good taste of it now, but the muscular and always athletically-conscious Kapler has been able to fall back on his old teammates.
"I have the best of both worlds," he said. "I'm able to start interacting immediately with the Minor League guys, trying to make them better without losing that connection, which has been incredibly important to me."
It's not unusual to see Kapler chatting with ex-teammates in the clubhouse, but he says it's not all business.
"Mostly those conversations are just catching up with family," Kapler said. "Not to say I don't have baseball-specific conversations with guys like [Curt Schilling], or [Jason Varitek] or Dougie [Mirabelli] or whoever it might be but a lot of times it's just, 'Hey, what are you doing tonight' or 'How's your wife and kids?' Just catching up on stuff that's really important."
Kapler spent time in the offseason meticulously preparing for his new career, reading motivational books from icons like basketball Hall of Famer John Wooden.
"At this point, I'm not going to say I'm past the point of reading, but my days are pretty full," he said.
Between reading and talking to his former teammates and coaches, Kapler already has plenty of tools to use to start helping players climb the ladder.
"I'm going to find someone to have an impact on," he said. "I'm always looking around for somebody who might be in need of something or someone to talk to, and for me, that's very rewarding."
Kapler is already learning that less can be worth a lot more in terms of teaching.
"It's a lot less in what's said and [more] in how I try to carry myself, especially when I know there are many, many eyes watching and taking mental notes," he said. "The message there is, 'Be prepared and bust your [butt] on a daily basis.' I think that transcends anything you could possibly come up with or you could say to a player and have an impact on them."
Still, Kapler is wondering what his biggest challenges will be once the season arrives.
"There's going to be tons of them," he said. "For me, it's going to be protocol. Game reports, evaluation of players, which certainly I need the ability to project [the abilities of] a Minor League player to [those of] a specific Major League player, and those things take a lot of practice. I don't see those things as being overwhelming by any means, but you need to do it.
"The saying goes, 'There's no teacher like experience. They give the test first and the lesson following,'" Kapler added. "Basically, right now, I'm in the test phase, and the lesson will come after."
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.