Among the whirlwind of press conferences, cross-country flights and workouts, Bryce Harper and Gabe Kapler didn’t have a chance to talk one-on-one before Harper signed with the Phillies.

When they finally sat down to get to know each other, it was several days after Harper had joined the team, in an empty clubhouse in Clearwater, Fla.

“He shared, he opened up, and was really interesting,” Kapler told the Inquirer’s Matt Breen and Scott Lauber. “He told stories about his father and his high school and his neighborhood and [I] learned so much and [it] became evident why he’s good in a major-league clubhouse — because of those experiences as a kid.”

Harper has been on a fast-track for success ever since he first graced the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16 years old. But the Las Vegas native grew up in a neighborhood rich with ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. His teammates came from all sorts of places, something Kapler thinks has shaped Harper and helped him navigate a clubhouse.

Kapler saw a bit of himself in Harper. The Phillies’ second-year manager grew up in Hollywood, Calif., but attended a massive public school in Los Angeles that introduced him to people from all over the world.

Kapler’s point: He knows Harper had to work “extremely hard” to get to where he is today — the recipient of the biggest contract in baseball history.

The second-year manager is the first guest on Extra Innings, a podcast about all things Phillies by the Philadelphia Inquirer. And in a conversation with Breen and Lauber, Kapler touched on a number of topics, including clubhouse camaraderie and his ideal MVP Baseball 2005 lineup.

Harper, in Kapler’s opinion, is “the definition of a superstar." But he’s also done his research — Kapler was impressed by Harper’s knowledge of Phillies history and Harper’s wife, Kayla, and her investment in “creating a family atmosphere at the ballpark.”

The signing of Harper changed expectations for the Phillies, and not just for this season. But Kapler isn’t afraid of his ballclub’s ability to deal with them.

“Our group, I believe, is the type that’s going to be inspired by — invigorated by — those raised expectations and that higher bar.”

Kapler also went deep on:

  • How he approaches integrating Harper into the clubhouse, and what lessons he learned from the signing of Jake Arrieta last year
  • How he worked to get “every last drop of strategic advantage” out of last year’s lineup, and how that will change now that he’ll have fewer defensive decisions to make
  • What he heard from fans during his winter in Philly
  • His ideal Phillies lineup from MVP Baseball 2005
Gabe Kapler is in his second year managing the Phillies.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Gabe Kapler is in his second year managing the Phillies.

Look for Extra Innings weekly throughout spring training and the regular season for analysis about the news of the day and discussions about what fans can expect to see on the field. Plus, we’ll also bring you exclusive interviews with Phillies coaches, players and executives, providing insight beyond what you can find on philly.com.

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