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Gabe Kapler, nerves and all, was perfect for the Giants


Gabe Kapler repeatedly blew bubbles with his gum and popped them in his playoff debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and oh does Dave Roberts remember his division counterpart did it during his Double-A playing days.

Kapler absolutely has butterflies, he says, and he considers that a good thing. He found a way to channel those to victory in San Francisco – lots of wins – by making so many good moves throughout the year.

Now the season comes down to a Game 5 winner for his Giants in the NL Division Series on Thursday night against Roberts and his defending World Series champions Dodgers. Roberts’ seasoned and playoff-tested manager takes on newcomer Kapler, with all of his innovative approaches and a huge group of supporting coaches.

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Adrenaline, nerves, anxiety, you name it. Kapler embraces everything. He even talks about it with his son, Dane, who recently called ahead of a football game and told his dad he felt those same emotions.

Previously, Kapler could pop a few extra pieces of gum when getting ready for a match.

“I don’t have them now. I got them, like butterflies or nerves and things like that,” Kapler explained ahead of his first playoff game as a manager. “From the point of view of the nerves, I think the nerves are really good.

“My son Dane tells me he’s going to play his college football game, he says, ‘I’m really, really nervous.’ I say, ‘That’s great. The nerves will sharpen your focus. You are often a better decision maker if you can channel them.’ “

Kapler learned from his own failures, including two disappointing seasons at the helm of the Philadelphia Phillies before being fired.

After playing for the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series – Roberts’ stolen base in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series with his three-strike-out side being swept away by the Yankees will forever live on in Boston lore – Kapler went to Japan and “had a really hard time getting nerves, getting nerves.”

It was a bit annoying, to say the least.

“I walked into the circle on the bridge and my heart wasn’t beating very fast,” Kapler recalls. “I played in Japan terribly.”

Veteran wide receiver Buster Posey credits Kapler with staying ‘same keel’ all season, due to significant injuries, Alex Wood and Donovan Solano who contracted COVID-19 at the same time and all the other unforeseen challenges that could have derailed this record club.

Kapler spent time talking to a few of his Coaches of the Year about Posey and how Adrenalin could have led the veteran wide receiver through big games, long nights and grueling stretches as he continued. to play behind the plate until NL West is won on the last day. .

Ahead of the Giants’ training day last Tuesday, Kapler and his son spoke again about nerves and how important they are. Back in college at the University of British Columbia, Dane Kapler regularly talks to his father before games.

“My dad has been telling me about the importance of nerves before my football games for as long as I’ve been playing,” Dane said. “We’re talking about how that feeling of nervousness you get is there for a reason, and it actually helps you perform under pressure. I like to think about it from a survival perspective – your nerves are there. before a hunt to let you know how much it is for your survival, and that elevates all the senses needed to be successful. “

The Giants have won a franchise record 107 games this season, and Kapler has established himself as the face of this organization which previously included three seasoned managers, Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou and then Bruce Bochy.

At 46, Kapler does things his own way. This includes discussions about emotions and mental health with his players and his adult son.

“Thinking of nerves in a positive light like this just helps me walk into a game – or any type of performance – with more confidence,” Dane Kapler said. “A lot of coaches will mistake nervousness for fear or lack of preparation, but I think that kind of mentality can really lower your confidence. When you think of nerves as a natural thing and a good thing, it helps you. to maintain your confidence. “

Roberts, for his part, has seen Kapler’s pre-game nerves at work for decades. They were Double-A teammates in Jacksonville in 1998, then played together for the 2004 World Series champions Red Sox.

“When he gets like that he has more gum in his mouth,” recalls Roberts. “He chews a lot more gum. He’s an intense guy. He certainly had some ways to fight that, or as he puts it, to kiss him. We all have some kind of adrenaline and emotions that we have to bring together for clarity. “