PHILADELPHIA -- Gabe Kapler knew his audience as he pulled on his Phillies jersey and cap Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies introduced Kapler as the 54th manager in franchise history. He quickly mentioned fan favorites Larry Bowa and Chase Utley and referenced a legendary comment Phillies owner John Middleton made to Ryan Howard following their loss to the Yankees in the 2009 World Series.
"We're going to play with the same level of intent and intensity that Chase played with," Kapler said. "Before the game begins, we're going to prepare, prepare, prepare so that we thought out everything and make strong decisions. We're going to hunt for value at the margins. We're not going to leave any stone unturned to find our competitive advantages. We're going to think traditionally and we're going to think progressively. We're going to mold those two things together -- this is in an effort to bring that ... trophy back to John Middleton."
Kapler, 42, is an unconventional choice, certainly by Phillies standards. In fact, he could be considered a gamble.
If so, the Phils strongly believe it is one worth taking.
"He's a progressive thinker," general manager Matt Klentak said. "Much has been made about this. I would advise we look at the teams that just finished competing in the World Series. Look at the teams that competed in last year's World Series. These are among the most progressive organizations in baseball. I don't think it's a coincidence that those are the four teams that have played in the World Series the last two years. That's where the Phillies need to head, and Gabe Kapler is going to be a huge asset to us as we try to progress to the future."
It took the Phillies almost a month to hire their new manager. Philadelphia interviewed three internal candidates and at least five external candidates before selecting Kapler, Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan and former Red Sox manager John Farrell as finalists.
They held a second round of interviews late last week at Citizens Bank Park. Sources said Kapler separated himself from the pack.
"That was really important," Klentak said. "In my opinion, the Major League manager has the ability to connect an entire organization."
The Phillies weren't deterred with Kapler's limited coaching experience. He managed only one season in the Minors in 2007.
"I think at the end of the day, what we concluded is the total package that Kap brings to the table here is the right fit for this organization at this time," Klentak said. "You're right, he's limited in his Major League experience on the bench, but there are things we can do to help support him in that area."
That could mean a coach or two with extensive experience. Kapler said he has made no job offers to potential coaches yet.
Of course, the Phillies also looked deep into Kapler's background, which included a handful of eyebrow-raising posts on his lifestyle blog about men's health. They also examined the complaint former Dodgers employee Nick Francona filed against the Dodgers and Kapler, who was their director of player development the past three seasons.
Klentak said the Phils were comfortable with what they learned to move forward.
"That's part of what we're embracing here -- Kap's willingness to ask questions and to move the organization forward, to try to be more progressive and as he said, 'To hunt value on the margins,'" Klentak said, referencing Kapler's blog. "If you look at any great leaders, they're going to have both succeeded and failed in their lives. That's generally true of all successful leaders, and I think to really achieve and to really excel, you have to be willing to take risks. I think Kap has been more vocal about it. His thoughts are part of the public record more than they are for some, but I think that's something that we embrace. I don't think it's something to shy away from."
The Phillies are not shying away from Kapler's big personality. He has a presence. But will it play in a big league clubhouse as a young team becomes a veteran team? Some in the industry think it will. Others reportedly do not.
Time will tell, but the Phils believe in Kapler.
"It's really exciting," Middleton said. "When you start changing the culture of the organization, it's exciting. It's what gets me charged up every day to come to work."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.