MESA, Ariz. — Unfortunately for the A’s, Jim Harbaugh is taking his base-coaching talents to the Grapefruit League.
The former 49ers and current University of Michigan football coach reportedly will spend a day coaching first base in an exhibition for the Detroit Tigers in Bradenton, Fla. That means he won’t be making a return visit to A’s camp, where he memorably set up shop in the first base coaching box last spring and didn’t leave for seven innings, helping the A’s celebrate a walk-off 8-7 Cactus League victory over the Angels.
Two A’s sources said they weren’t expecting Harbaugh to make the trip to Mesa this spring.
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Though manager Bob Melvin had expressed hope at the team’s FanFest of Harbaugh taking the field with the A’s again, visiting the Tigers makes sense on multiple fronts for Harbaugh.
He’ll already be in Bradenton next week, taking his Wolverines on the road for a week of spring practice at IMG Academy. The Tigers will be playing a road game at the Pirates’ spring park in Bradenton. And given his school of employment, Detroit is his de facto hometown baseball team now.
But the Detroit News reported that Harbaugh might even jump to the other dugout and base-coach for the Pirates too. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle is a huge Michigan football fan. The extra publicity and exposure certainly won’t hurt when it comes to Harbaugh’s recruiting in the talent-rich state of Florida.
Harbaugh surprised A’s players by showing up in the clubhouse last March on an invitation from Melvin, who had been a guest at 49ers games previously. Harbaugh called the A's a bunch of "jungle lions", then coached first base for most of the day as the A's came back from a 6-1 deficit to beat the Angels. Melvin and Harbaugh have a connection going back decades, as both grew up in the Peninsula and played in the same American Legion program, albeit not at the same time.