MESA, Ariz. – Jim Harbaugh emerged from the A’s clubhouse Saturday morning in full Oakland uniform, with high socks showing and a familiar-looking No. 4 on his back.
The former 49ers coach was a guest at A’s camp for a day, a courtesy payback from manager Bob Melvin, who stood on the sidelines for several 49ers games in recent seasons and even got inside access to some of Harbaugh’s coaches’ meetings.
The plan is for Harbaugh to get out on the field and coach first base for a couple innings Saturday afternoon as the A’s host the Los Angeles Angels at Hohokam Stadium.
“Gonna be very aggressive,” Harbaugh said of his base coach strategy. “Hungry dogs hunt best. Let’s go for two!”
The Harbaugh-Melvin connection actually goes back to their youth. Melvin is two years older and attended Menlo Atherton High School, while Harbaugh attended nearby Palo Alto High. They played in the same American Legion program, though not at the same time.
“Bob was the legend,” Harbaugh said. “They went to the World Series the year before I got on the team. I wasn’t near the baseball player Bob was.”
[RELATED: Jim Harbaugh special guest at A's camp]
Harbaugh said his first exposure to baseball came through his father, Jack, who was childhood friends with longtime Detroit Tigers outfielder Gates Brown. The Harbaugh kids got to wander through the Tiger Stadium clubhouse and get up close to greats like Al Kaline.
Harbaugh was a pitcher, catcher and shortstop in baseball. What kind of player was he?
“Mediocre,” he said. “I was about a .417 hitter in high school. Then my Dad came home with the Charlie Lau theory of hitting. After that I could not get the ball out of the infield.”
Melvin kept news of Harbaugh’s visit under wraps from players, so imagine their surprise when the new University of Michigan football coach entered the clubhouse.
Harbaugh spoke to the team briefly.
“I saw him during our (morning) meeting and saw him in the background and did a double-take,” outfielder Sam Fuld said. “He said he appreciated the way we play.”
Shortstop Marcus Semien was sitting next to pitcher Chris Bassitt, a big Ohio State fan, and said he couldn’t’ help but needle Bassitt about having to listen to the Wolverines coach.
Six weeks of spring training can get monotonous, and Melvin said he enjoys shaking things up with the occasional surprise.
“He’s an inspiration just walking out here,” Melvin said. “He’s got that air about him. A winner. Whenever you can have guys like that around, guys benefit from it. Plus, you don’t find too many guys that actually want to get in uniform and go out there and interact with the guys during workouts and so forth.”
Melvin said he learned plenty from witnessing the way Harbaugh went about things while coaching the 49ers.
“I got to stand on the sidelines about 15 feet away from him and got to watch him down there,” Melvin said. “Watch his meetings, how his coaches prepare. That’s what he’s all about too. He loves watching coaches prepare. Obviously they’re different sports, but there’s a lot of similarities in the interaction between coaches.
“He’s a very good speaker to his team. I’ve been in on some meetings and actually stole a bit of his material from time to time.”
Harbaugh took the field in full uniform – green jersey and white pants – in the morning and played catch along the third base line as the A’s went through infield drills. And Harbaugh sported the high-sock look.
“My old school stirrups,” he boasted.
Said Melvin: “He requested those.”