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Dossier: Gabe Kapler, the Giants’ New Manager

By Julissa James

Illustration by Donna Grethen.

Sure, there’ve been some strikes, but Gabe Kapler’s not out just yet.

Last November, when the Giants announced they hired the decidedly hunky former outfielder as its new manager, the decision was polarizing, to say the literal least. Kapler’s rugged good looks had a handful of people thinking, “Not a bad addition to the team!” But mostly, Giants diehards responded with a fierce wave of backlash.

It wasn’t just the City’s deep affection for former manager Bruce Bochy. It wasn’t even Kapler’s meh tenure managing the Philadelphia Phillies. In short, it was outrage over his reported mishandling of an assault allegation involving two minor-league players in 2015. At the time, Kapler had been director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers under Farhan Zaidi, who is now the Giants’ president of baseball operations. SF doesn’t play that game — no matter how chiseled one’s abs, smoldering their gaze or accessible their demeanor. (And reader, Kapler is in firm possession of all of these things.)

He’s since insisted, via his, ahem, blog, that his “intention was to respect the victim and her wishes.” And dozens of supporters, including Zaidi, have gone to bat for Kapler’s character. On the precipice of his (now delayed) first season heading the Giants, the Gazette wanted to know, controversy and bedroom eyes aside, who is this guy, really? And if he exceeds expectations, will fans just call it water under the Golden Gate?

Don’t hate the player

Kapler spent 12 years playing in the majors. He made his debut with the Detroit Tigers in the 1998-1999 season, before joining the Texas Rangers (2000-02), the Colorado Rockies (2002) and the Boston Red Sox (2003-06), where he earned a World Series ring in 2004. Later, he played for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional League, finally hanging up his mitt in 2010 after a stint with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Game recognize game

Kapler is one of only eight Jewish managers in baseball history, according to the San Jose Mercury News. He had a hand in hiring the Giants’ new assistant coach Alyssa Nakken, who at 29 years old is the first female coach in MLB history. Bat drop. It’s a move that not only bodes well for the promotion and visibility of women coaches in a male-dominated sport, but the decision also makes skeptics more accepting of Kapler’s leadership style. “This history of this franchise and the support of this fan base … it’s some pressure,” he had said. “And I love that pressure — to live up to being a great leader in this town. I’m excited to take that on.”

 

Illustration by Donna Grethen.

Peace, love and baseball

Kapler’s parents, Judy and Michael Kapler, are self-described feminists who met protesting for civil rights and antiwar movements in 1960s New York before relocating to California. A childhood educator and a classical musician, respectively, Judy and Michael have said that Kapler was raised with this same hippie spirit. Fun fact: When Kapler was playing for the Red Sox during their championship season, he was the only Democrat out of 25 people on the team, according to a clubhouse poll.

Gabe Kapler, the influencer?

Kapler has an old lifestyle blog (kaplifestyle.com) that serves as both a time capsule and a peek into the Southern California native’s protein-fueled psyche. What’s hiding deep inside the enigma’s mind? Fitness routines, healthy recipes, workout playlists and, shockingly, a melancholy poem or two.

Gabe Kapler, the sensitive poet?

Check out an excerpt, called “Open,” from his diaristic blog:

Illustration by Donna Grethen.

Don’t judge a Kapler by its pecs

Former Giants pitcher Matt Herges told the Chronicle of Kapler: “Gabe is easy to judge — he’s one of the handsomest guys you’ll ever see, he’s in ridiculous shape, he’s 44 and he still has a six-pack, the tight jeans, he’s got this presence and I think it makes people say, ‘Hold on, what’s with this guy? I’m a little leery.’” But, Herges continued, “I was totally wrong. Honestly, he’s a guy you want to be like, and it’s not just a man-crush thing.”

Single. But is he playing the field?

Kapler and his high school sweetheart, Lisa Jansen, raised two sons together before divorcing in the mid-2010s. He hasn’t been romantically linked to anyone since — not publicly anyway. For interested parties in San Francisco — and there are interested parties — Kapler’s an oenophile: “It’s one of the greatest things about being the manager of the San Francisco Giants,” he joked to ABC7. “There’s wine accessible everywhere.” We’d bet that he wouldn’t turn down an invitation to be wined and dined around the City.

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