SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The theatrics were minimized. The speech — speeches, rather — were brief. The let’s-shock-the-world! was missing, and if Hollywood one day greenlights the 2020 Giants season for production, the first moment Gabe Kapler addressed his team in full will not be forever remembered in movie lore.
In a season in which expectations are low, the volume was turned down, too, on Day One as the Giants worked out collectively for the first time Monday. In a meeting of about 30 minutes, Kapler, Farhan Zaidi and several veterans rose to speak to the team, most of the specifics buried in the clubhouse.
Kapler described it as “short and sweet,” and appreciated his tenured guys stepping up because that helps set the tone for this season: They do not want coaches speaking and players listening. The dialogue has to go back and forth.
The Giants did not want to reveal who, exactly, spoke. Kapler did not want to reveal what, exactly, he spoke about.
The message of the speech, according to Wilmer Flores, was: “Anything we need we can go talk to him. He’s always open to talk. … We can do this, we’re ready to go, we have a good team. We have young guys and veteran guys, we can come in and do good things.”
Veterans like Flores and Evan Longoria have heard these speeches before — a lot of them to open seasons — but not quite like this.
Asked about the tenor of the meeting, Longoria said it was different because of the player input. It wasn’t manager dictating and players absorbing.
“I think Gabe is really a lead-by-example guy,” said Longoria, who played with Kapler in Tampa. “I’m sure that he can give the rah-rah, first-day speech if he had to. But I don’t think that’s him. He more wants to strike people as a genuine person and not someone who wrote something down, trying to read what he wrote to motivate guys. He speaks from the heart quite a bit.”
After the brief get-together, the 70-plus players exited the clubhouse for the field and formally began competing with one another. The word “competition” will be tossed around camp more than baseballs.
Thus far, that has been universally accepted.
“There’s a real willingness to work, a real willingness to be open to new ideas — that was kind of the message [of the meeting],” said Longoria, who has spent much of his offseason at Scottsdale Stadium. “We need to be open to ideas but work toward coming together as a group and learning the new people in the group as soon as you can and asking questions and getting to know guys.
“There’s a good possibility that the 26 guys that we leave camp with, three or four or five of them we’d never even met before the start of this camp. I think a lot of jobs are open.”
He first phrased it as “friendly” competition before correcting himself: “You’re playing for livelihood.”
Slider machines were brought out on Day One, the pitches getting trickier immediately in front of the first crowds of the season. There were rotating groups at each position, Yolmer Sanchez and Mauricio Dubon at second, Pablo Sandoval and Longoria at third, Wilmer Flores behind Brandon Belt at first.
The new-age (and young-aged) coaches are in house. The players are assembled. The dialogue has begun. The competition is on.
“We’ve got obviously a lot of doubt going into the season from the outside, and our job is going to be to focus on what we can control in this clubhouse and not worry about outside distractions,” Longoria said. “There’s going to be probably a lot of movement this year, a lot of different things that we’re not used to.”
There were not true goals set, apart from improving. And as much as Longoria did not want to get into specifics or lofty aims, he did say, “I think if we can all be a little better individually, as a group we might shock some people.”