SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On the first full day of Giants camp, Gabe Kapler spent a few moments looking back at Little League. Kapler will turn 48 this season, but he still regularly turns to something that was said to him as a 12-year-old when he needs a bit of motivation.
Kapler had taken the hardest-throwing kid in the league deep to dead center, a huge moment for any young baseball player. But after the game, another kid walked up to him and told him he simply got lucky.
"I never forgot that," Kapler said Monday, smiling. "It was like, OK, I will make sure that you know that that was not a stroke of luck."
Motivation can come from anywhere for professional athletes, and the Giants will have no problem finding targets this season. They feel they had a good offseason, but during just about every media session, there is some reference to Aaron Judge or Carlos Correa.
Nearly every preseason prediction will have the Giants finishing third in the NL West, with the outliers probably picking them to be fourth. They not only are trying to surpass a Los Angeles Dodgers team that has dominated the NL West for a decade, but also the San Diego Padres, who refuse to let a winter or trade deadline go by without making a splash.
There is a lot to worry about in the division, but as Kapler gathered the players, coaches and support staff Monday, he urged everyone in the room to look inward. His main message before the first team workout was one that carried the Giants through a stunning 2021 MLB season.
"Mainly, in order to win consistently, everybody in a room like that has to take a step forward," Kapler said. "On teams that are mediocre, you see everybody kind of performing to expectations, some perform a little below, some perform a little bit above. On teams that really excel, you see contributions from a bunch of minor leaguers in a room like that, and you see a lot of the players that are already in the room take a step forward. It was just a reminder of that."
It truly will have to be a team effort for the Giants, who have raised their floor but will pale in comparison to others when it comes to star power. They tried in the offseason and came up short, and perhaps that will be their fuel.
At FanFest, Giants ace Logan Webb said he wanted teammates to enter camp with a chip on their shoulder. Asked about those comments, Kapler relayed his own anecdote about being doubted in Little League. He also said he loved reading what Webb had to say.
"I think it's great. I think that's a great way to approach a spring training, I think that's a great way to approach a season, is to find how to get that motivation and then how to use that as motivation to prove people wrong," he said. "This is not a new concept. This is like, Professional Athlete 101."
The Giants were reminded of that last season, when they faced doubts all spring despite coming off a franchise-record 107-win campaign. The mediocre projections turned out to be spot on, but on Monday, the Giants started the work of trying to raise the bar.
During the short meeting, Kapler shouted out the support staff in the clubhouse -- led by Abe Silvestri and Brad Grems -- and reminded the Giants they have everything they need at Scottsdale Stadium and Oracle Park. Now it's on them, and he pointed to one of the team's best young players as an example of how the roster can find more upside.
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At this time two years ago, Camilo Doval came to camp with fellow right-handers Gregory Santos and Kervin Castro, each of whom had a similar opportunity. The others now are in other organizations, with Doval entering the season as the Giants' closer.
"Those have to emerge for teams to be successful, so it's asking our players to take a good look in the mirror and believe that that's what you're capable of, no matter who you are in that room," Kapler said. "And to take it a step further, you have to believe that the person sitting next to you is talented enough and capable enough to take that step forward."