CLEARWATER, Fla. — Each Phillies player had an invitation waiting at his locker when he reported to spring training. The Phillies were hosting a team dinner on the eve of Monday’s first full-squad workout. The team rented out a downtown Clearwater restaurant and the players were asked to wear something that made them feel confident. They would discuss what it means to “be bold,” which manager Gabe Kapler said will be a theme for the season.
This was different. And Kapler, in his first week of spring training, has shown that he is not afraid to be different.
“We’re going to address our players very similar to the way our players are addressed on the first day of a full camp,” Kapler said. “We just figured that one way to accomplish that was to do it in a more open setting. We saw it as an opportunity to connect as a group and as a family. Sometimes families spend together off the field. You eat together and you drink together and have a good time together.”
And the manager’s message?
“Basically, the message is that we’re prepared to win. The expectation is that we’re going to win on opening day and we’re going to win throughout the season and into September and October. From a planning perspective, it’s making sure we send that message loud and clear, that we send it with boldness, and that we send it with intent and conviction. This is probably coming out slightly more serious from me than usual, in part because I feel so passionate about it.”
The Phillies will have three days of full-squad workouts before hosting the University of Tampa on Thursday in an exhibition game. The week of workouts for pitchers and catchers was different than in any other Phillies’ camp. The workouts started later in the day in hopes that the players would be well-rested. Umpires presided over bullpen sessions, calling balls and strikes. A music playlist curated by the players blasted from the speakers.
“You’ll see the same vibe and the same upbeat energy,” Kapler said. “The music will be playing. If all goes well, and we expect it to go very well, people are going to be smiling and enjoying each other’s company. It’s going to be loose. It’s going to be relaxed and it’s going to be intense. It’s going to be short and quick. We’re not going to spend more time on the field than we need to spend on the field. We’re not going to do any eyewash drills. No cookie-cutter stuff. It’s all going to be done with a purpose.”