Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kapler Has Become Suns' Strongman

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kapler Has Become Suns' Strongman

Article excerpt

Gabe Kapler had on both a tank top and game face. The

Jacksonville Suns' workout addict was sitting on a bench in a

walkway near the clubhouse when relief pitcher Peter Durkovic

came through with another verbal jab at Kapler's well-chiseled


"Show me the pecs, babe," Durkovic said.

Kapler has come to expect getting harassed about his physique.

With a 32-inch waist on a 6-foot-1, 208-pound frame, not to

mention the microscopic body-fat count of 3.98 percent, the

Suns' outfielder accepts whatever ribbing is brought on by his


"Yeah, I get a little insane if I feel I'm losing a little

[body definition]," Kapler said. "I know I have to have a

baseball player mentality, not a bodybuilder mentality."

No apologies are necessary. Kapler, 22, is more than just a man

of steel around Wolfson Park. He's also the biggest steal in the

Detroit Tigers' organization.

It's one thing to be hitting .309 with 13 home runs and 77 RBI

less than halfway through the Southern League season. It's

another to be doing it as a 57th-round draft pick.

Conspiracy theories abound as to why Kapler, who has torn up

pitching at every minor-league stop, dropped out of sight on

draft day three years ago. Dennis Lieberthal, the Southern

California scout who signed him, put "eighth to 10th round" on

his recommendation sheet to Detroit and questioned his bosses

for letting Kapler fall into almost the Mike Piazza (62nd round)


"Scouts were down on him because he played third base in junior

college and didn't have a very good arm," Lieberthal said. "He

looked like a weightlifter, he didn't throw with much

confidence. Scouts thought he was too stiff.

"But at the plate he was a very consistent, line-drive, gaptype

hitter. He was a hitting machine. He never should have dropped

that far in the draft. We screwed up, but we wound up smelling

like a rose."

With prodding from Lieberthal, the Tigers offered a generous

bonus of $10,000, but Kapler wasn't thinking about money. He

feared a 57th-round pick would get chained to the bench, but

agreed to sign when the Tigers guaranteed him a starting

outfield job in the New York-Penn League. …

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