BOSTON (AP) – Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler retired Tuesday after nine major-league seasons to start a managerial career with the team’s Single-A team in Greenville, S.C., that he hopes will lead to him managing a World Series winner.

Kapler, 31, takes over the Drive of the South Atlantic League from former major-league infielder Luis Alicea, who had been named Boston’s first-base coach and infield coach.

“A place where I’m going to be rewarded emotionally and spiritually to have an extreme impact on somebody’s life can be much more powerful than hitting a home run in a clutch situation,” Kapler said. “It feels right inside of my body.”

He was a backup for the latter part of his career and finished with a .270 batting average with 64 homers and 302 RBIs in 850 games. Last season, he hit .254 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 72 games after recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon. He became a free agent after the season. He said he had “ample opportunity” to continue playing, although the last time he talked with Theo Epstein, Boston’s general manager told him they would “touch base” later.

“I’m ecstatic” about this new job, Kapler said. “I have managerial aspirations. I have aspirations to win a World Series as a manager (but) I have to focus on what my job is now.”

Mike Hazen, Boston’s director of player development, said, “This is certainly a unique opportunity for us and for our players” to learn from a leader the team feels Kapler can be.

Kapler, who also played with Detroit, Texas and Colorado, started the 2005 season in Japan playing for the Yomiuri Giants. They released him after he hit .153 in 38 games and he re-signed with the Red Sox on July 15. He played 36 games for Boston that season before injuring his Achilles’ on Sept. 14 while rounding second base in Toronto. He was activated last June 16 but had just 130 at bats for Boston all season.

Kapler played seven games for Detroit in 1998 then started for the Tigers the next season before spending the next 21/2 seasons with Texas. He finished the 2002 season with Colorado then played 39 games for the Rockies in 2003 before they released him on June 20. He signed with Boston four days later.

He hit a career-high .302 with Texas in 2000 then had major-league highs with the Rangers in 2001 with 134 games, 72 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. In 312 games with Boston, he hit .270.

Kapler said his agent talked with other teams about signing him as a player.

“I didn’t want finances to play into it,” he said. “I made that mistake already once when I went to Japan. … Helping other people and being a part of other peoples’ lives is much more rewarding than finances.” Kapler has been thinking of managing for many years. Now that he’s made that decision, there will be times he’ll think he could have continued playing.

“The likelihood will be there for several years to come where I say to myself, “I could still be playing baseball,’ ” he said, “but I don’t think there’s going to be that moment where I regret that decision.”

AP-ES-12-12-06 1815EST

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