With arms folded across his chest, Sandy Alomar listened intently as Garry Templeton walked and talked as he led off second base.
Templeton was discussing techniques for getting jumps. Alomar, the Padres' baserunning and first base coach, stepped in briefly and walked like a wounded duck when taking a lead.
"You don't want to look like this," Alomar said. "Otherwise, you'll be a dead duck."
Everybody laughed, but Alomar's pun made its point. In the first 1 1/2 weeks of spring training, the Padres spent 45 minutes a day practicing and talking about baserunning.
"What's so encouraging is that the players are asking questions and having input," Manager Steve Boros said. "That's what we're looking for, a real give and take between instructors and players. You have to like that. When the players are silent, you have to feel like they are dozing off."
The Padres often seemed to sleepwalk in 1985, stealing only 60 bases, 10 fewer than former Padre Alan Wiggins alone stole in 1984.
It is a malaise Alomar hopes to cure.
"When we went to the World Series the year before last, we did a lot of running and made things happen," outfielder Bobby Brown said. "Last year, we didn't do that and we suffered. We want to bring that aggressiveness back."
The Padres had their most aggressive baserunning season in 1980, stealing a team-record 239 bases.
"I don't think we've practiced baserunning this much since I've been here," said Tim Flannery, the only remaining Padre from 1980. "A lot of times, this is something they expect you to learn in the minors. A lot of players never learn these things. Even if you know it, you need to be refreshed."
Padre runners have been given a refreshed approach for this season. Boros and third base coach Jack Krol have said they will shoulder the blame if anybody gets thrown out on the bases while running aggressively.
"One of our main points is that we want the runners to have a positive feeling," Alomar said. "We want them to think they are going to steal the base when they try. If you are afraid of being thrown out, you won't get a good lead and you will be thrown out."
Alomar speaks from experience. He stole 227 bases in a 15-year career that ended after the 1978 season. Alomar was with the Angels from 1969 to 1974, and is the team's career leader in stolen bases with 139.
"Everybody has to have his own style," Alomar said. "We're just trying to work on their mechanics and things they need to take advantage of. The main thing to being a better runner is having confidence and being relaxed."
Said Boros: "Our baserunning will be evident in subtle things like going from first to third on base hits or advancing on a short passed ball.
"Those are things that are unnoticed by fans and are not reflected in the statistics. But those are the types of things that help you win."
Boros has set goals for Kevin McReynolds and Tony Gwynn, players Boros thinks have not reached their capabilities on the bases. Boros thinks McReynolds could be a "Dale Murphy type," stealing 20 to 30 bases. He thinks Gwynn could steal 30 to 50 bases.
"I was an aggressive runner," Alomar said. "And we want our players to take advantage of situations by being more aggressive. Some of the players will always have green lights, and some will in certain innings. Steve (Boros) hasn't decided who will or won't get the green lights yet."
When major league drills are finished, Alomar often works with minor league players. He was a Padre minor league instructor last year, becoming first base coach two weeks ago after Williams resigned.
Two minor league Padres are of particular interest to Alomar--his 18-year-old sons, Sandy and Roberto. (Sandy is 9 months older). Roberto batted .293 and stole 36 bases in Class A ball last season. Sandy batted .207 and stole three bases at the same level.
Alomar considers Roberto the more polished player. He said Sandy Jr., temporarily quit baseball early in high school to ride motorcycles and practice karate.
"I wanted my kids to do whatever made them happy," Alomar said. "When they play baseball, people compare them a lot with me, which is unfair. I was lucky nobody could do that to me."
Alomar considers himself fortunate to have played 15 years in the majors.
After retiring from baseball in 1978 he purchased a gas station in Puerto Rico, staying affiliated in baseball as a coach for the Puerto Rican National Team. The Padres hired him before last season.
"I enjoyed the gas station at the beginning," Alomar said. "Then, I started to get tired. I spent so many hours there, and I wasn't used to it. In baseball, you work a couple of hours and go home."
As long as his players don't run out of gas on the bases, Alomar will be content.