ANDRE THE GIANT

Enter Secret Number Two.
In his just-finished playing days, Brad Gilbert was a heady, journeyman pro who got the best out of his ability but would never be mistaken for McEnroe or Becker. Now 35, Gilbert first caught sight of Agassi as a raw 15-year-old bashing forehands from three feet inside the baseline, and he never forgot the vision. Like many athletes with limited skills, Gilbert is a devoted student of his game. But when he and the theretofore "uncoachable" Agassi hooked up after last year's Lipton as mentor and charge, no one in tennis imagined the late blooming that would yield.

"Andre wasn't maximizing his potential," Gilbert told a reporter. "And it didn't have anything to do with his strokes. He wasn't playing inside the court anymore. He was back on his heels behind the baseline...I think he came to believe that his shots were so good that he could whack a big winner from anywhere. But it was one-dimensional tennis. And he wasn't strategizing."

Shorn of his blond locks and youthful recklessness, Andre Agassi has been reborn as a strategizer par excellence. Oh, he can still perforate opponents with his sizzling ground strokes, but the new wisdom in his game is what's suddenly putting trophies in the case and huge checks in the bank. After winning two straight Grand Slam events--Sampras was his victim in the Australian final--Gilbert and Agassi are shooting for one more Grand Slam win in 1995, although three more would suit them fine.

Of course, Double A's supercool seatmate on the plane from Miami will have something to say about that. In 1995 and beyond, Agassi-Sampras should be a spectacle for the ages.

The workmen were still laying the cornerstone at Coors Field last Thursday, but pennant fever was already rampant in the city. The additions of prime free-agent slugger Larry Walker and reliable Giants starter Bill Swift to Don Baylor's roster have Rockies fans swooning with delight and anticipation.

But the real fun could be when division-mate San Diego comes to town. Like a lot of cash-poor teams in baseball's post-strike scenario, the Padres found themselves rooting around the bargain basement for free agents last week, and they now have a virtual monopoly on previously owned lefties from western Mexico.

Fernando Valenzuela, the dazzling Dodger screwballer of yore, says he is 35; some in his native Navajoa believe he's older--six or seven years older. Bet he can still get to the mound and back, though. Ex-Brewer star Teddy Higuera, who's had more arm trouble than Venus de Milo, is a child of 37, but he isn't going home to Los Mochis anytime soon, either.

It isn't correct usage, we know, but shouldn't they rename this club the Granpadres?

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