Friday, September 4, 2009

Fighting Words Q&A: Gabe Kapler

Gabe Kapler's a pretty interesting guy, In the five years since this interview was conducted, he has won a World Series ring, played in Japan, returned to the Red Sox, suffered a torn Achilles tendon, returned to the Sox, retired to become the manager of the Sox' Single-A affiliate in Greenville, unretired, signed with the Brewers, participated in the 2008 playoffs and played with the Rays. Whew. Photo from this site.

A quick note here to offer my sincere and appreciative thanks to Bruce Allen for reviewing Fighting Words and conducting a Q&A with me yesterday at Boston Sports Media Watch. Thanks, too, to Bruce for linking the Derek Lowe Q&A, and if you arrived here via that route, welcome. I hope you like what you see, and I hope you’ll stop by beginning Tuesday, when, I’ll post in two or three parts the Patriots chapter from Fighting Words that ended up on the cutting room floor.

In the meantime, check out this Q&A with Gabe Kapler that I conducted in 2004. I’m a day late to coincide with Kapler and the Rays hosting the Sox, but Kapler’s take on the positivity of the press and the advantages of playing in a market where fans have an insatiable thirst for information about their athletes is pretty timely given the Sox’ recent dissatisfaction with what they perceive as negative coverage. Happy Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the burgers and dogs.

Did you ever participate in any media training seminars?

I remember we had a rookie development program, I think in ’98—how to deal with the media and how to handle certain situations, to avoid [certain] questions and how to not be manipulated by questions and how to manipulate the situation so you get across the points that you want to get across. What else did they teach us there? There was also [something on] how to avoid the pitfalls of being out on the town and getting photographed—not necessarily photographed, but being confronted by people—and learning how to not be reactive.

What was the media like at your previous stops: Detroit, Texas and Colorado?

It was a different world. You knew everybody by name, there was a familiarity there that you don’t have here, because, basically, there’s two competing newspapers: Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. So if you have a conversation with a reporter, you know where it is [going to appear]. Whereas here, it can [appear] anywhere. Detroit was a little bit closer to here. Not nearly the same level. As far as Colorado, it wasn’t even close.

What had you heard about the Boston media before you played here?

In the clubhouse, I’d heard it would get crowded at times and you had to be careful, because my understanding from outside sources—which I found to be entirely untrue—was that the media’s happier when you’re losing than when you’re winning. I haven’t found that to be an accurate depiction at all.

Why do you think that is the case?

I think that comes from there being less to write about when [the Sox lose]. I think that, truly, a lot of the writers around here are Red Sox fans, whether they admit it or not.

A lot of the beat writers and columnists are from the area. Do you think they shoulder the team’s struggles and failures more than reporters in other cities?

I think that’s more the fans caring so passionately and deeply. They want to win so badly They say ‘We’re going to be very disappointed when we lose.’ They’re very open about being disappointed when you lose. But [they’re] always going to care.

Do you ever marvel at how the Patriots are in the midst of a legendary run yet the Sox get more coverage?

It’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty exciting It’s nice to be a part of. Whether I play one more year with the Red Sox, no more years with the Red Sox or 10 more years with the Red Sox, I will always cherish the experiences that I had here. Remarkably rewarding.

You’ve become pretty popular with the media. Do you see yourself as a team spokesperson-type of player?

I don’t think that’s accurate—at least I don’t see it. Maybe I’m off, but I don’t feel like I talk to the media more than anybody else. I don’t feel at all offended by that [characterization]. I’ve never—I don’t notice myself talking to the media more than anybody else I could be wrong. Other people have more [press responsibilities] than me.

What do you remember about the relationship between the press and the Sox—and in particular Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra—last year?

Very little, believe it or not. There’s been so much positive that’s gone on here that it’s been difficult to think of [negatives]. Pedro’s talking to the media now and Manny [as well]. Nomar was real particular about when he talked.

Is the passion for baseball in Boston a good thing because it allows someone like you and your wife an outlet to try and help others by telling the story of how she was abused by a former boyfriend?

There’s no doubt about it. It’s unbelievable. It’s given me a forum to talk about important issues that you never would have been able to talk about. And because of it, we’re starting a really great [charity] that we wouldn’t have been able to start [otherwise]. I’m very thankful for the opportunity.

We had talked about starting a foundation and we have this fundraiser called Picnic in the Park here. Jane Doe is an organization that supports women in abusive relationships and their rehabilitation. Lisa said she had been in that type of relationship, they embraced her [and] she opened up about it. She started to speak about it, we talked about how perfect it would be if we could get something going.

And the rest has become history. She’s spoken to five or six high schools in the last two weeks. She’ll get [a company] called the National Jean Company that’s affiliated with Jane Doe and raise money for Jane Doe. Really remarkable. We really have Boston to thank for that, because they listen where nobody else really cares. It’s great to be a member of the Rockies, but you have an issue and you’re not Todd Helton, it might not get heard, where here, it’s heard.

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