Editor’s note: The Dodgers officially named Gabe Kapler their new director of player development Friday, ending Kapler’s tenure at FOX Sports. Below is Gabe’s goodbye.
I’ve decided to go back and work in baseball. It is an exciting time for me, but also a somber one as I say goodbye to FOX Sports, FOX Sports 1 and JABO. Just like leaving a great clubhouse, I’m going to miss my teammates.
We are all inspired to work for various reasons. People invigorate me more than subject matter. The work itself is critical, but having been in clubhouses of all types, from the 1998 Tigers (97 losses) to the 2004 Boston Red Sox (World Series champs) to spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, I believe our net experience is colored by the men and women we toil with.
Our best teachers are everywhere if we stay open.
The Detroit Tigers drafted me in 1995. That summer, I spent the first few days of my professional baseball career in Lakeland, Florida, at the minor-league dorm in Tiger Town, our spring training complex. Everything was new to me. I didn’t know where the cafeteria was or when and where to stretch. A group of Dominican players quickly became my most important colleagues. They didn’t let a little thing like the language barrier (my LA Unified School District taught Spanish with a Mexican flavor; I had never heard this vocabulary, these intonations and colloquialisms before) get in the way of sharing their experiences and knowledge with me.
Walking into my job at FOX Sports was like 1995 all over again. Everything was new for quite some time. I was a foreigner sponging up a new language, and there were plenty of caring teammates to guide me through the process. In every sector from TV to writing to digital, mentors lurked.
Long before Rob Neyer arrived to lead our JABO team, I was a reader of his work. We were aligned in the way we digested baseball, but more importantly, he always presented his opinions in an unapologetic and engaging way. He earned my respect by never leaning on his past performance and led by example with his consistent work ethic and attention to detail.
He sent me this as part of a grammar/schooling email and did so with a nuanced, Rob-style twist:
"’Its’ and ‘it’s’ are different. Of course the laws of English would suggest they both take the apostrophe … but that would lead to confusion! So instead we have a different sort of enduring confusion."
Rob became like a great hitting coach to me. He learned my communication style quickly and interacted accordingly. He recognized that I was new to writing and was comfortable allowing me to move at my pace. I know that I am a better professional after working with him.
Rob was far from the only wisdom disseminator in my world. My media family was flush with many figures eager to drop knowledge or simply lend an ear. These are the type of people who make it hard to leave our work environments. The people, the love, the connections are what matter most.
Clubhouse chemistry may not be quantifiable, but it is certainly palpable at its most potent. Our team at FOX Sports is a savory blend of innovative and traditional, tolerant and pressing, studious and fun. I was proud to call the members of this crew my teammates. I learned valuable lessons from each of them.
As I move on to work with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, I say farewell to a special group of people. In baseball, clubhouse chemistry matters. Apparently, it does in media too.