Kapler, Fick Ready for Big-League Debuts

It's one of the most joyous occasions of a ballplayer's career, but for mom, the moment will be full of anxiety.

"I'm so scared," said Judy Kapler, whose son Gabe will make his major-league debut with the Detroit Tigers in the next few days.

"Since he was 4 years old, my heart's been in my mouth every time he's been at-bat. I can't imagine how it's going to feel in a major-league stadium."

She'll soon find out.

At the conclusion of the double-A Southern League playoffs, Kapler, an outfielder who played at Taft High and Moorpark College, will be promoted along with his Jacksonville, Fla., teammate Robert Fick, a catcher from Newbury Park High, Ventura College and Cal State Northridge.

Judy, her husband Michael Kapler and Gabe's brother Jeremy, 26, are flying to Kansas City on Monday to watch the three-game series between the Tigers and Royals that begins that night.

Fick's mother, Gloria, no doubt will feel much like Judy Kapler, although she'll have even more moral support. No fewer than 16 of Fick's family members and friends will be on hand.

Northridge Coach Mike Batesole and assistant and former Fick teammate Grant Hohman are flying to Kansas City. So is Wayne Smith, who along with Fick's brother Chuck coached the 1992 American Legion national championship Newbury-Oaks team on which Robert starred.

When Fick played at Northridge, his brothers earned a reputation as being boisterous fans. They plan on toning it down.

"We're just going to be fans and leave Robert alone," said Chuck, a St. Louis Cardinals scout. "Being a catcher, he has a lot to learn in a quick period of time."

Whether they actually witness Fick's or Kapler's debut remains to be seen. Jacksonville trails Mobile in a best-of-five series, two victories to one. If Mobile wins today, Fick and Kapler will join the Tigers in Detroit for games Saturday and Sunday against the Minnesota Twins.

Both players have torn up the Southern League. Including playoff games, Kapler is batting .319 with 48 doubles and a league-leading 29 home runs and 150 runs batted in. Fick is close at .318 with 19 homers, 121 RBIs and a league-leading 51 doubles.

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