Kapler announces retirement

Kapler decides to hang up his spikes for good

BOSTON -- Considered one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking Red Sox players in recent memory, Gabe Kapler wasn't about to enter the next phase of his life on a whim.

So, on Tuesday evening, when Kapler announced his retirement from baseball at the age of 31 to begin a managerial career with Boston's Class A Greenville club in South Carolina, there was little doubt he was doing what he felt was right in his heart and mind.

"I have been thinking about this transition for many years, and believe this to be the right time," Kapler said. "This will afford me the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of young men, not only to help them develop as baseball players, but also -- more importantly -- as human beings.

"It's not about me, it's about the lives I have an opportunity to impact at this point. Essentially, it's going to school. You're going to learn how to manage. You're going to learn when for the first time you're put in that situation with the game on the line, to make a decision. You're going to learn the first time a guy ... does something stupid, how you are going to handle that situation."

Kapler replaces Luis Alicea, who left the South Atlantic League affiliate to join Terry Francona's staff as first base and infield coach.

"The Red Sox are very pleased that Gabe Kapler has decided to stay in the organization as he begins his post-playing career," said Mike Hazen, Boston's director of player development. "We feel that Gabe will be a big asset to the Red Sox as he works with some of the younger prospects in our system."

Kapler was signed by the Red Sox in 2003 as a backup outfielder and won a World Series ring with Boston a year later. He then left for an ill-fated two-month stint with the Yomiuri Giants, hitting just .153 with three homers and six RBIs in 38 games in 2005. He returned to the Red Sox two months later before rupturing his left Achilles' tendon in September.

"In my gut, I didn't want finances to play into it," said Kapler, who hit .254 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 72 games this season with Boston. "To me, that's the wrong reason to make a decision. I made that mistake once already when I went to Japan for financial reasons and blew it. I recall [saying] I wouldn't do that again. I want to do something that will make me and my family happy, and helping other people and being apart of other people's lives is much more rewarding than finances."

Drafted in the 57th round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft by the Tigers, Kapler was projected as a fleet-footed outfielder with a powerful arm who could hit for power. He made his big-league debut in 1998 with the Tigers before stops in Texas and Colorado.

But it was on the 2004 World Series champion Red Sox where Kapler showed perhaps his most endearing quality -- leadership. With the team struggling in late July, Kapler, with the help of teammate Kevin Millar, worked to keep a positive attitude in the clubhouse.

"From the Red Sox perspective, this is certainly a unique opportunity for us and for our players to have somebody of not only Gabe's playing background and career, but also the person that he is and the leader we think he's going to be -- both on and off the field -- just presents a very exciting opportunity for both the Red Sox and our players," Hazen said.

Known later in his career for having a bodybuilder's physique, Kapler finishes with a .270 average over parts of nine seasons in the Majors. In 850 games, he hit 64 home runs and drove in 302 runs.

"I think the likelihood will be there for several years to come where I say to myself, 'I can still play baseball,'" Kapler said. "But I don't think there's going to be that moment where I regret the decision."

In the afterglow of the club's World Series run, many Red Sox players credited Kapler with helping to keep the club's spirits up.

Now, Kapler is pursuing a different World Series dream.

"I don't want to get too far in front of everything here, but certainly that is my aspiration," Kapler said of managing someday in the Majors. "I have managerial aspirations. I'd like to win a World Series as a manager someday, but first and foremost, my goal is to be a great manager at Greenville and develop players at Greenville."

For the thoughtful Kapler, Tuesday was the first step down that path.

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.