CLEARWATER, Fla. — I’m sure by now, the message from Clearwater has made its way back home. Something is different at the Carpenter Complex.
Things are changing inside the walls of Spectrum Field.
This isn’t your father's spring training.
On the surface, that message rings true. As true as the bell at Frenchy’s Tiki Bar, on a sun-soaked Saturday afternoon when a patron’s generous tip warrants the clanging celebration.
Yes, some things are different as Gabe Kapler and his staff takes over the reins of this ballclub.
The sound of music in the hallways, and positive messages in the clubhouse. A renewed emphasis on rest, recovery and roles. A belief that the power of an athlete's mind can directly affect the performance of an athlete's body. New exchanges of ideas and ideologies.
But from where I sit, tucked away in the left field corner, this spring training resembles all the others I’ve seen. The sounds of the bat on ball and the pop of the catcher's mitt as it collects a 90-plus mile per hour fastball. The encouragement from one teammate to another shouted across the diamond after a heads-up play. The echo of laughter in the clubhouse and effort in the weight room. The sounds of baseball.
The stakes are high, and for most players, the pressure to succeed is real. This is their job, and they take it seriously.
For the major league staff, this reality is clear. So if they can offer a simple reminder to the players, to “Be Bold” and play fearlessly, they will. Reassuring them that their best chance is, without a doubt, to believe in the talent that has gotten them here.
Kapler’s message may sound different at first blush. But I would argue that's mostly because of how he delivers it. He's passionate and unapologetically positive. He's thoughtful with his words and deliberate in his tone. He uses analogies and metaphors that on the surface may seem alien in professional sports.
But if you listen, the message is familiar.
Win by paying attention to details.
Win by making small strides in the things you already do well.
Win by analyzing the numbers.
Win with hard work, with smarts, with hustle.
Win despite the naysayers.
Go back in sports history and you will find these doctrines being preached time and time again. The idea that if everyone pulls in the same direction, buys into the message, believes in one another, extraordinary results can occur. We’ve watched it happen.
The Phillies' rebuild has shifted into a new gear. And Kapler and his staff have been given the latitude to construct this team into a perennial contender once again. They will do it with proven methods and unconventional thinking. They will do it with positivity and practice. They will do it the way they believe it should be done.
And to some, it may sound different. But to me, it sounds like baseball.
Gregg Murphy has been the Phillies' field reporter since 2012.