For seven years he was known only as “Tempy,” but these days many call him “Cap.” It stands for “Captain,” which stands for respect, which makes Garry Templeton’s bones feel alive again.
“I’m having a lot more fun this year,” he said with a laugh. “Can’t you tell?”
His Padre teammates can tell, at least the ones with ears, for he has spent the past week in song. As in rap. He has talked not just to them, but to baseballs and batting cages and anything else requiring a little inspiration.
The fans can also tell. The other day while leaning against the outfield fence, Templeton systematically handed balls over to children on the other side.
“Had to,” he said. “The way we were hitting, they weren’t getting out of the park any other way.”
Finally, perhaps most importantly, Manager Jack McKeon can tell. He formalized on Tuesday what many have assumed all along--that amid the imposing figures and wallets of Tony Gwynn and Jack Clark and Bruce Hurst and Eric Show, his 1989 team captain will be a 33-year-old shortstop named Templeton.
“I see no reason to change it,” McKeon said of the captaincy, which Templeton will be holding for the third consecutive year. “Tempy is the kind of guy who can inspire you, who can communicate with everyone. Why do we need someone different?”
Funny, Templeton said, but under McKeon, the Padres will have a captain who is different. He said this new captain will not be afraid to speak out, to work with the younger players. This new captain will not be afraid to lead.
For most of the previous two years under former Manager Larry Bowa, Templeton said, the captain was afraid to lead his shadow.
“Being captain under Larry was like a joke, and all the time I knew it was like a joke, I just never said it,” Templeton said. “The man named me captain and then never stood behind me. He saw me as competition. I tried to tell him, ‘I’m not competing with you, I’m working with you,’ but he would never listen to me.
“I couldn’t talk to the team because it was like I was upstaging him. In the end, I couldn’t do nothing but keep my mouth shut.”
Oh, there was one thing he could do. Remember when he moved his belongings from a locker directly adjacent to Bowa’s office down to one behind a pole? At the time, he said it was because he wanted to return to where he lockered during the 1984 playoffs. But there was something else.
“I know it’s hard to believe, but Bowa had rabbit ears and would listen to my conversations at my locker,” Templeton said. “I would be talking to the young kids, and then he would call in his office and ask me, ‘Why did you tell them that?’ He was always questioning me. I had to get out of there.”
Templeton had a chance to leave this winter as a free agent but instead remained for around half of his previous year’s $1 million salary. Part of the reason he accepted less was his desire to remain in San Diego. Another was that he wasn’t exactly accepting less.
When he signed his original three-year contract following the 1985 season, he ordered most of the money deferred. So he never really made as much as $1 million in 1987. And he won’t make as little as $500,000 in 1989.
“I got lucky by doing that,” he said. “So I’m not really taking much of a pay cut. And I’m happy.”
Like he earlier said, you can tell.
He swaggered through the clubhouse Sunday, shouting, “C’mon, now, get ‘em down at the jump and don’t let ‘em up!” This was before an intrasquad game against a group of minor leaguers. And he wasn’t even playing.
Then after Monday’s workout, he went down to a batting cage to work off a tee and wound up giving advice to Rob Nelson, who has more homers in his last three minor league seasons (63) than Templeton has in his entire 12-year big league career (52).
“All of a sudden, he told me that in my swing, I needed to use less of my body and more of my hands,” Nelson recalled. “I was impressed he would take the time.”
Templeton said he has not been ordered to do any of those things. He said he and McKeon have never even discussed his captaincy.
“We don’t have to,” he said. “He knows, and I know. He wants me to be myself, do my thing. That goes without saying.”
Even if Templeton’s thing could be platooning with a youngster such as Mike Brumley or Gary Green? This is a strong possibility considering Templeton platooned last year with Dickie Thon, since traded to Philadelphia.
“Jack is standing behind me, so I’m standing behind him,” Templeton said of McKeon. “He wants me to platoon, I’ll platoon. Whatever he wants, I’ll do, and as hard as I can.”
Templeton, who hit .249 in just 110 games last year, the fewest since he joined the Padres in 1982, smiled.
“Of course, everybody thinks I’m old,” he said. “Tell you what, I feel 25. And I might just come out and show you 25.”
Said McKeon with a wink: “You know what happens when Tempy is pushing everybody to go harder, don’t you? He may just go a little harder himself.”
Bruce Hurst, who has been suffering from a bit of shoulder stiffness, remained on schedule Tuesday with 15 minutes of what pitching coach Pat Dobson called, “excellent throwing.” Unless Hurst wakes up this morning in pain, he will start in Friday’s exhibition opener here against California. Hurst said Dobson worked with his mechanics to take some pressure off the shoulder, and the slightly new motion paid off. “I made some adjustments and felt great,” said Hurst, whose ailment is rather common in the first week of camp. “I’m approaching Friday like I’m ready to throw.” According to Dobson, Tuesday was “the best Bruce has thrown. The only reason we’d even be worried about this is because he said that in Boston late last year, they overpitched him (he worked twice on three days’ rest). Today, his last four or five fastballs were just great, and his control is amazing. He would tell the catcher to move to where he was throwing it, and the ball would be right there. Down, on the corners, right where he wanted it. Amazing location. Right now, there’s no problem.” Hurst ended the 1988 season with a sore shoulder, but he said it was a different part of the shoulder, and that he felt fine after a week of off-season rest, as doctors predicted. . . . Another Padre organization pitcher having physical difficulties is national No. 1 draft pick Andy Benes, who is not being allowed to pitch in minor league intrasquad games because pain in his hip upon delivery. He was pulled from the minor league stars game against the big leaguers last Sunday and may not face game situations for another week. Taking no chances on the hard Arizona desert, his bosses are not even allowing Benes to run. . . . Padre fans should hope that Tuesday’s simulated game, where the starters played the subs, is a sign of things to come. In Tony Gwynn’s first at-bat, he doubled to left. Then Jack Clark hit a ground rule double that bounced over the center-field fence. Then Benito Santiago doubled to right. The only thing was, they were hitting off batting practice pitcher Steve Leubber. And the catchers were the umpires. On one close play at home plate, Gwynn slid into Mark Parent amid his squad’s cries of ‘safe, safe.’ Parent stood up, dusted himself off and shouted, “Wait a minute, I’m the umpire, remember? He’s out.” . . . One sidelight was the first exposure of first baseman Clark to Santiago’s pickoff throws. A couple of times, Clark seemed stunned that Santiago could get the ball down there so quickly. He later said that he had worked out a deal with the catcher to keep from getting burned. “He’s like a young Tony Pena, even better,” Clark said. “You can tell he has such confidence in his throwing, he’ll throw it anytime and not worry about throwing it away. We’ve already worked out a sign so I don’t get fooled. I like sneaking in there behind a guy and getting him. With Benito, if they aren’t careful, we will.” . . . Yet another sign of team unity this spring: At a voluntary dinner with the local Caballeros service club Monday night, just four players failed to show up. That’s fewer no-shows than in the past, when the dinner was mandatory.