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When Pat Burrell first became teammates with Gabe Kapler in 2009 on the Tampa Bay Rays, he had the same visual first impression of Kapler that any person would have.
“My first reaction was the physique,” Burrell said to NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday after Kapler’s introductory press conference as the Giants’ next manager. “I was like, ‘Gabe, how are you maintaining this?’”
From his playing days to even now as a coach, there are numerous stories of Kapler’s work ethic in the weight room and strict diet. He certainly doesn’t look like your average baseball player, and that’s especially true now as a 44-year-old manager.
Kapler and Burrell each were 32 years old for the majority of the 2009 season. San Francisco’s newest skipper is just about 15 months older than Burrell, who spent the final year-and-a-half of his career as an outfielder on the Giants. The two both were past their primes in Tampa Bay and spent an abundance of time together talking about baseball and life in general.
Even then, Burrell knew Kapler had a career ahead of himself in the game, likely as a coach.
“Man, what a teammate,” Burrell said. “Always there for you, would do anything for you. I mean, insanely positive.”
Burrell says Kapler, as a former 57th-round draft pick — yes, you read that correctly — always was prepared both mentally and physically. He expects his former teammate to bring an edge to the Giants and a “grinder” attitude after three straight losing seasons.
But Kapler is walking a fine line with a roster that has both aging veterans and young players on the rise as the Giants continue an extensive rebuild.
“He’s coming into a tough situation,” Burrell said. “How do you balance that dynamic? One thing I do know that Gabe is gonna bring is a tremendous amount of energy and passion, and hopefully that can be something they can feed off of. He will be at the top step every night, and he will be positive.”
As the Giants turn to young players like infielder Mauricio Dubon, breakout rookie outfielder Mike Yastrzemski and pitchers Logan Webb and Tyler Beede, core veterans still are expected to play major roles on this team. Buster Posey was in attendance for Kapler’s press conference, and the new manager admitted he will lean on the three-time World Series champion.
Whether the manager is a Bochy or a Kapler, every player will have to step up in 2020 for the Giants, regardless of status. This will be a brand-new clubhouse with fresh energy, and it all starts with the man tasked to replace a legend.
There will be passion. Now, will there be wins?
[RELATED: Kapler admits he wasn't popular hire as next Giants manager]
“Out of Farhan [Zaidi's] words, I think he talked about the last couple years there has been some low energy. And [Kapler's] gonna give you that,” Burrell said. “The only question I have is, does that translate to winning? Maybe. We’ll see.
“But for the fans and people that watch baseball, it’s really fun to watch players having fun out there, and I haven’t seen that the last couple years.”
Kapler’s passion and energy didn’t produce enough wins in two years as the Phillies’ manager. He, along with Zaidi and the rest of the Giants, certainly hope the second time is the charm.