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Quick quiz: Who holds the Texas Rangers record for consecutive game hitting streak? Rafael Palmeiro? Juan Gonzalez? Michael Young? Josh Hamilton?
None of the above.
It’s actually Gabe Kapler, who, when you look at his career, was a productive player as a regular before settling into a “fourth outfielder” role that extended his career to 12 Major League seasons. He hit in 28 straight in 2000, when he had career highs in average (.302), hits (134) and doubles (32).
But Kapler was never satisfied with his on-field success; he was always looking toward life after the game. As a player, he was an investor and part-owner in companies, and his latest venture, Egraphs, a new technology platform that enables stars to interact remotely with their fans, combines both of those elements. Kapler serves as director of business development.
He recently took a few minutes to talk with Going 9 Baseball about his career and work with Egraphs.
G9B: You played parts of 12 MLB seasons and are known more as a fourth OF, but when you had your 500 plate appearances, you were very productive as well. Did you feel you could have or should have been used more?
GK: There was a time in my career when that was prevalent, especially in 2004 when I was part of the World Series team in Boston. I had an offer to play in Boston in 2005, as a utility outfielder, get my 350 plate appearances, play defense, pinch run for Manny Ramirez, that kind of role. But [Yomiuri Giants of] Japan called and said they’d give me 600 plate appearances, go out and play every day. I thought, maybe I can do that and prove that I can be productive here in a long season, parlay that into a spot in Boston in 2006, 2007. But then I realized how blessed I was that I could contribute and help a team win. After that, I never felt resentment or sadness. For the most part, I was happy with the way things played out.
G9B: All the great hitters in Texas history, you played 3 years for them but you hold the hitting streak record. Do you take special pride in that, and do you think it will be broken soon?
GK: It’s kind of cool. I mean, Mikey Young, he gets 200 hits a year, Hamilton, Kinsler, these are productive, high-quality players. For awhile I played regularly, but even then I was never at the level of those guys, spectacular hitters, Pudge, Juan Gonzalez. It’s kind of cool and makes me smile.
G9B: The Boston-New York series was just renewed this weekend, and you’re familiar with it, particularly the curse-breaking year. What was that like for you to have been on the back-to-back game 7 ALCS?
GK: I can remember clearly the clubhouse after Aaron Boone , it was a somber place, a lot of upset guys and a great level of disappointment. In 2004, I remember after Game 3, down 3-0, guys were saying we gave it all we have, we’ll play as hard as we can for as long as we can, but the odds were staked against us. So when we came back and won that series, once things started falling in our direction, we were unstoppable, we continued that through the World Series with the Cardinals, too. It was 100% momentum and we were dominating the rest of the way.
G9B: You will be doing some work with the Israeli team as it tries to qualify for the World Baseball Classic – have you seen them play? What is the qualification system, both to be a team member and for the team to compete next Spring?
GK: The criteria for selection to the team is just being Jewish somewhere [in lineage], a grandmother is Jewish, any Jewish connection. So Sean Green and I were trying to get ready to play, but in any case we will coach. Brad Ausmus will be the manager, it’s very exciting. We have some very high quality minor league players, and if we qualify for the WBC, it’s All-Star caliber players like Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Scott Feldman, Kevin Youkilis. To qualify, we’re in a pool with South Africa, Great Britain and, I think, France. One of the four of us will come out of the tournament, in mid-September in Jupiter, Fla.
G9B: What attracted you to Egraphs and why do you think it can be successful?
GK: I was attracted to the ‘Why’ of the company. Egraphs is a shared experience between the fan and his favorite celebrity, immortalized forever, a handwritten, personalized message that the player creates on their iPad, for a fan, along with a short voice recording. It’s delivered to the fan, the fan opens it up and sees a high-resolution photo with the handwritten message and hits the ‘play’ button to hear the personalized greeting. The player already has the personal info about the fan. Jimmy Rollins recently created an egraph for a toddler fan named Celeste. Her parents said that Celeste’s third word was J-Roll [Rollins' nickname], so the audio is something along the lines of ‘Hey Celeste, glad to hear your third word was J-Roll, I think I’ll keep it as a nickname.’ Egraphs produces something that fans haven’t seen before — a slice of that player’s energy, created in their own space and time.
G9B: Do you think that having lived the life of a major leaguer helps you see the potential here and how it can work?
GK: I have a unique perspective. I played in many different clubhouses. One of the downsides of that is that I didn’t get to wear the same uniform, stay in the same place my whole career. The upside is I meet a lot of people, a lot of coaches, front office personnel. You get to see how they behave, and form relationships. One of the things I’ve found is that everyone has an iPad. They carry them with them. If you walk into a Major League clubhouse, in between batting practice, they may not even get up to talk to the guy across the room, maybe just send them a message. This is another way to utilize that down time, right on their iPad. Why not create an environment where they can connect with people. There is full flexibility for the athlete, who we see as just as important a consumer. If they are happy, they are displaying that energy.
G9B: If you could get one egraph from any player in history, who would it be?
GK: I’d say Charles Barkley. I grew up watching Barkley; as a 1980′s basketball fan, I idolized Barkley, he was the coolest man on the planet and just 6’4 1/2″, he outrebounded the monsters. I just thought his energy, his drive, determination, his personality so vivid and alive. If i could have gotten an egraph from him I would have done it. For baseball, Fred McGriff, he was my favorite.
G9B: What about a current player?
GK: Andrew McCutchen is realy cool in his egraphs. David Price is extraordinary. There are so many good ones.
Topics: Business World, Career Highs, Consecutive Game Hitting Streak, Field Success, Fourth Outfielder, Gabe Kapler, Game Business, josh hamilton, Juan Gonzalez, League Seasons, Manny Ramirez, Plate Appearances, Productive Player, Quick Quiz, Rafael Palmeiro, Resentment, Technology Platform, Texas History, Texas Rangers, Yomiuri Giants