MESA, Ariz. –- After spending all day with the A’s, Jim Harbaugh left with a parting gift:
A come-from-behind, walk-off 8-7 Oakland victory over the Angels.
That was the perfect capper to an afternoon that included the former 49ers coach handling first-base coaching duties for the A’s for the final seven innings.
“If we would have gone 15, he probably would have stayed out there,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Harbaugh surprised players by showing up in the clubhouse in the morning on an invitation from Melvin, who had been a guest at several 49ers games. He played catch and watched infield drills. Then once the game started, he relieved regular first-base coach Tye Waller for the bottom of the third.
Harbaugh didn’t leave his post until Renato Nunez delivered the game-winning infield single in the ninth, ending a game that the A’s trailed 6-1 as late as the seventh.
“Great … great,” Harbaugh said afterward with a big smile on his face. “I was getting more and more comfortable. It was great to be around these guys. A great group of guys. Bob Melvin does a great job. There’s two or three things I learned today. You only travel to see the best.”
His day job required that he leave the desert quickly, as the University of Michigan is in the middle of spring football practice sessions. Harbaugh left Arizona with a signed Coco Crisp hat for himself and a signed No. 4 jersey for his father, Jack.
“We’re big Coco Crisp fans,” he said.
[STIGLICH: Jim Harbaugh takes the field with the A's]
The A’s let Harbaugh in on some of their signs, so he could follow along with what plays were on. He watched much of the action as if a crucial third-down play was unfolding: Bent over at the waist, hands on knees. All that was missing was a pair of khakis and a headset.
As for actual coaching duties, Harbaugh said he didn’t have much communication with players but did point out “that the (catcher) was throwing down to first a few times.”
Harbaugh said he picked up on a few things that he’ll take back to Ann Arbor with him.
“They used time in an infield drill,” he said. “I see some football applications to it. I’m gonna try to work it into football. I love the way (Melvin) manipulates the roster. He’s gotten everybody an at-bat so far this spring. … Just the way he interacts with the team.”