PHILADELPHIA — The jersey had already been thrown around Gabe Kapler’s shoulders. The hat, however, was still sitting on the table. And the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies couldn’t wait to throw it on his head.
“Give me that ‘P’ and put this thing on,” the 42-year-old said as he tugged on the brim during his introductory press conference on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. “Feels so good.”
Kapler — who served the past three seasons as director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers — met with reporters in Philadelphia on Thursday after being named manager on Monday.
Kapler replaces Pete Mackanin, who was fired and assigned to a front office role at the conclusion of the 2017 season. It will be Kapler’s first time managing in MLB after playing 12 years and one season as manager of the Single-A Greenville Drive in Boston’s minor league system.
“Gabe Kapler is incredibly prepared,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. “That came through in the interview process. It came through as we talked to people throughout the industry that either played with him or worked with him, players who had played for him. If he brings the same level of preparation and grit to the Phillies that he brought to the field as a player, our fans are going to love this guy.”
The Phillies are hoping that Kapler’s energy — along with several analytical philosophies — will be enough to get the team back to the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Philadelphia has lost at least 90 games each of the past three seasons.
“One of the things that we’ve talked about is we don’t actually build the baseball players, we build the environments for the baseball players to flourish and develop,” Kapler said. “And if we build a really healthy environment for them to come to the ballpark in every single day, they’re going to be the strongest versions of themselves and then we’re going to carry that strength out on the field and perform.”
The move is part of Philadelphia’s overall shift from a scout based system that helped carry them to five straight division titles, two NL pennants and the 2008 World Series title.
“I would advise we look at the teams that just finished competing in the World Series,” Klentak said. “Look at the teams that competed in last year’s World Series. These are among the most progressive organizations in baseball. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those are the four teams that have played in the World Series the last two years. That’s where the Phillies need to head and Gabe Kapler is going to be a huge asset to us as we try to progress to the future.”