This week, the San Francisco Giants introduced Gabe Kapler, the Jewish son of two Brooklyn teachers, as the team’s new manager.
Kapler, 44, replaces Bruce Bochy, who announced his retirement after 13 seasons with the Giants and three World Series titles.
Kapler was a journeyman outfielder over a 12-year Major League career, hitting a respectable .268 for six different teams. In 2004 he played 136 games with the Boston Red Sox en route to the organization’s first World Series in 86 years, which he called the crowning achievement of his career.
For the past two seasons Kapler managed the Philadelphia Phillies until his firing last month.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Kapler said he was excited about living in San Francisco, a city he has always connected with. A travel enthusiast, Kapler said his ideal day is spent “getting lost” exploring a new place, something he’s been doing in San Francisco in recent days.
“San Francisco is one of the most diverse and accepting cities on the planet,” he said. “That probably excited me more than anything else about coming here.”
Kapler grew up in greater Los Angeles and went to Taft High School in Woodland Hills. His father Michael is a classical pianist and music teacher and his mother, Judy, is an early childhood educator. They connected over social protest movements in the 1960s.
“My mom and my dad were both civil rights activists,” Kapler said during the press conference, explaining his affinity for San Francisco’s diversity. “They were both heavily involved in social justice and social change. Those were values that were instilled in me from a very young age.”
A proud Jew, Kapler was a player-coach on Team Israel during the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifying round. In 2017 he traveled to Israel for the first time with the national team, calling it an “extraordinary life experience.” He has two Jewish tattoos: a flame with the words “Never Again,” and the years 1933-1945 on his right calf, and a Magen David on his left calf.
“I am immensely proud of our people,” Kapler told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. “The way we have been persecuted, and our drive and our survival, is mind-boggling. I think that is part of the reason I continue to be so connected to the Holocaust, and why that has such a moving effect on me.”
Kapler is known as a weightlifting and nutrition enthusiast, and was nicknamed “the Body” by Boston Globe journalist Bob Ryan. He will join Jewish outfielder Kevin Pillar in the Giants clubhouse.
His appointment has caused some controversy. A February report from the Washington Post alleged that the leadership of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, including Kapler, who was director of player development at the time, failed to notify police of a possible sexual assault by Dodgers minor league players in 2015.
The day after the Washington Post story appeared, Kapler released a statement denying that he tried to conceal the allegations, saying he followed protocol by first trying to resolve the allegations with the parties involved, then reporting the incidents up the Dodgers’ chain of command.
At this week’s press conference, reporters peppered Kapler and Farhan Zaidi, the team’s president of baseball operations, with questions about the incident. Kapler responded openly, often thanking the reporters for their questions.
“I think this is the right time to say I’m sorry I didn’t make all the right moves,” he said, adding he should have sought more advice, including from his mother. “Everything I did I acted from a place of goodness in my heart, wanting to do the right thing.”
Zaidi, hired last year to lead the Giants’ baseball operations, said the organization placed a high priority on character in making its managerial decision.
“This is not a job that’s just about the X’s and O’s,” he said. “This is about somebody who’s going to be an ambassador to the community, a leader of the organization. Based on my personal experience with Gabe, I feel very strongly he can be that kind of person.”
Kapler is excited to take over the Giants, a team in the midst of a rebuilding period after posting three consecutive losing seasons.
It’s a bit like “a blank slate,” he said. “For creative people in baseball, that’s super exciting.”