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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Former Jacksonville Suns outfielder Gabe Kapler, who won the 1998 Southern League MVP with a record-setting campaign and went on to play 12 major league seasons, will be inducted into the Southern League Hall of Fame this year, the Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs announced on Thursday.
A panel of 20 voters chose the league's fourth induction class, which will also include Baseball Hall of Famers Tom Glavine and Tony La Russa. The inductees will be celebrated at the 2017 Southern League All-Star Game June 20 in Pensacola, Florida. Jacksonville is the only franchise with at least one representative in each of the first four Southern League Hall of Fame classes.
Selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 57th round of the 1995 MLB Draft from Moorpark (California) College, Kapler began the 1998 season with Jacksonville and led the Suns to a runner-up finish in the Southern League Championship Series, before making his major league debut for Detroit on September 20 that year.
In 1998, Kapler posted Southern League single-season records in extra-base hits (81), RBI (146) and total bases (319), and tied teammate Robert Fick with 47 doubles. All four marks remain league records. Kapler also led the league in 1998 in hits (176), home runs (28) and runs (113). He was named the Minor League Player of the Year by USA Today, Baseball Weekly, and The Sporting News. He played in the Double-A and Southern League All-Star Games, and was MVP of the Southern League All-Star Game. Below are Kapler's 1998 Southern League statistics (bold indicates Jacksonville record; * indicates Southern League record):
In the major leagues, Kapler played for seven teams in 12 seasons, including the Detroit Tigers (1998-99), Texas Rangers (2000-02), Colorado Rockies (2002-03), Boston Red Sox (2003-06), Milwaukee Brewers (2008), and Tampa Bay Rays (2009-2010). He reached the postseason twice, both with Boston, in 2003 and 2004, when he was playing right field during the final out that clinched the first Red Sox World Series title in 86 years. With the Rangers in 2000, he had a 28-game hitting streak.
During his playing career, Kapler played in Japan in 2005 with the Yomiuri Giants and took a season off in 2007 to manage the Red Sox Class-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive, in the South Atlantic League. After retiring, he was on the coaching staff with the Israeli national team 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifier. He currently is the Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers and has a health and well-being blog at www.Kaplifestyle.com.
Below is a list of previous Jacksonville inductees to the Southern League Hall of Fame:
Peter Bragan, Sr., Owner, 1984-2012
Randy Johnson, Left-handed pitcher, 1987
Peter Bragan, Jr., Owner, 1984-2015
John Shoemaker, Manager, 2001, 2005-07
Larry Ward, Broadcaster, 1981-84
ABOUT THE JUMBO SHRIMP: With their home opener Wednesday, April 12, at 7:05 p.m., the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are beginning a new era of affordable family fun at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. With a new lineup of ticket and group options for 2017, there is a reason for everyone to get part of the action by calling the Jumbo Shrimp at (904) 358-2846 or visiting www.jaxshrimp.com.