SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Rockies position players gathered for a meeting early in spring training.
The subject? Baserunning.
The message: Put the pedal to the metal in 2019.
Although coaches oversaw the meeting, veteran outfielder Ian Desmond had the floor for much it, tutoring the club's youngest and fastest players.
"Dez was awesome, telling us things that you don't even think to think about," said 24-year-old infielder Ryan McMahon. "He told us things like, 'Be ready to take advantage of that first pitch, because if that pitcher just gave up a double, he's thinking about that next pitch, he's not thinking about you at second base. So don't be afraid to be aggressive.'"
Desmond, who swiped 20 bases last season at age 32, passionately believes that Colorado's ability to steal, take the extra base and generally harass the opposition will give the Rockies a huge advantage, especially playing in the thin air at Coors Field.
"We have a lot of fast, young guys on this team, and that can be a huge advantage," Desmond said. "My ultimate goal at the end of every game is to make the other team feel my presence. If we can do that as a unit, by the end of the series, they are not only going to be fatigued by playing at altitude, but also because we've put a lot of pressure on them and stressed them out for three or four days."
Colorado's roster of roadrunners includes second baseman Garrett Hampson, shortstop Trevor Story and outfielders David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Desmond. Hampson, able to scoot at 30 feet per second (according to Baseball Savant), is one of the fastest players in the majors. He's also an accomplished base thief, stealing 123 bases and getting caught just 23 times in 305 minor-league games.
Leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon, who stole 43 bases in 2015, is not as big a threat to steal now, but he knows how to take an extra base.
Last season, Story became the first shortstop in big-league history to record at least 40 doubles (42), 30 home runs (37) and 25 stolen bases (27). This season, he might become Colorado's first 30-home run, 30-stolen base player since Larry Walker in 1997. That is, if one of the Rockies' most indispensable players really wants to push the envelope.
Dahl, who once beat NFL quarterback Jameis Winston in a 60-yard sprint, had just five stolen bases and was caught three times last season. The Rockies have told him they want more.
"I have a green light," Dahl said. "I want to utilize my speed more and be more aggressive this year. I have the speed, it's just about being more comfortable with getting bigger leads. I need to be able to read pitchers better and getting a sense of who the catchers are. I just have to do my homework and get more comfortable."
Manager Bud Black is confident Dahl can utilize his speed to add another dimension to his game.
"He's got to push himself to go a little bit," Black said. "I think David wants to go — sometimes. But he can run and there are times when he'll go on his own. He understands that's part of his game, because he wants to be a complete player."
Two years ago — Black's first on the job in Denver — Colorado was molasses on the bases, ranking 14th in the National League with 59 steals, and ranking last in successfully stolen base percentage (63.4).
Last year, the Rockies improved significantly, with their 95 steals ranking third in the NL and their 74.2 stolen base percentage ranking fifth. Another indication of the Rockies' desire to run: they successfully advanced from first to third on singles 94 times, ranking third in the majors behind the Cubs (127) and the Dodgers (97).
"When we run, it puts a ton of pressure on the opposition," Black said. "The pitcher-catcher combo feels it, the other manager feels it. The defense feels it, too, making them uneasy. And I truly think it changes pitching sequences. We want to create that, because of the speed we have now."