KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- After spending two weeks serving as a guest instructor, former Cardinal Willie McGee departed Jupiter on Friday with an invitation from manager Mike Matheny to return anytime he wants.
McGee offered advice and instruction in a number of areas, but he was particularly instrumental in the Cardinals' efforts to improve their baserunning. McGee, who spent 13 of his 18 Major League seasons with St. Louis, had daily post-workout baserunning tutorials before the Cardinals started Grapefruit League play.
The attention shown by a player who had 352 career steals made an impression on several of McGee's baserunning pupils.
"Willie says it's all about confidence," outfielder Adron Chambers noted. "He was talking about how times have changed where coaches use stopwatches now to time pitchers. He said when he was playing, he didn't have things like that. He just believed that he would steal a base."
The Cardinals are not fooled into believing they will be a prolific basestealing club this year. The club swiped 91 bases in 2012, a total that ranked 13th among the 16 National League teams, and returns almost all of the same position players. But the Cardinals do have a handful of players -- including Chambers, Shane Robinson, Jon Jay and Oscar Taveras -- who have been told to take chances on the basepaths this spring.
"I think as a team, we feel like we should be stealing more bags," Robinson said. "We've chatted about it this spring amongst players and coaches, just kind of trying to come up with an idea about testing the waters to see what our maximum potential could be when it comes to stealing. It will help us. I feel like we're known as a team that doesn't run a lot. That can make us more dangerous."
The work will continue without McGee for the final month of spring. But the Cardinals need not worry: Lou Brock, who ranks second on baseball's all-time stolen base leaderboard, landed in Jupiter on Thursday.