MESA, Ariz. – Decked out in green and gold once again, Mark Ellis still looks fit enough to turn a 6-4-3 double play.
Instead, the former A’s second baseman will be helping Oakland’s current crop of infielders during a one-week stay as a guest spring training instructor. Ellis was in uniform and on the field Monday as the A’s went through their morning workout before an exhibition against the Kansas City Royals.
Since retiring before the 2015 season, he’s enjoyed the quality time he’s gotten with his family that was largely missing during his 12-year Major League playing career. Nine of those seasons were spent with the A’s, when Ellis built a reputation as one of the game’s top defensive second basemen. He joked that just one season away from the game already had him out of shape.
“I started working out again last week because I knew I had to put a uniform on,” Ellis said.
Upon his retirement, the A’s hierarchy made it clear Ellis would be welcomed in any capacity he wanted. He served as an instructor during Instructional League workouts in the fall, and general manager David Forst extended an invitation to come to spring training.
“When you’ve been on the field so many years, it’s in your blood,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Hopefully he’ll have a good five or six days and want to expand it down the road. Certainly we’re hoping that’s with us.”
Ellis says coaching sounds appealing, but he isn’t sure when he’d be ready for a more regular gig.
“I do like being home with my family,” he said.
Ellis added that he’s looking forward to working with all of the A’s young infielders, though he’s already familiar with shortstop Richie Martin from the Instructional League. Like Ellis, Martin -- the team’s first-round pick last year – played collegiately at Florida.
“We kind of have a connection,” Martin said. “He’s been working with me on ball drills. He has a great personality and really connects with players since he was a former player. That’s kind of cool. I just met him this past fall, but (Florida) coaches always talked about him because he’s one of the Gator greats.”
Ellis had this evaluation of Martin: “He’s freakishly athletic. Real fun to watch play shortstop.”
Though Ellis is still unfamiliar with many of the infielders he’ll work with, he’s got some former A’s teammates around camp in bench coach Mark Kotsay and Scott Hatteberg, a special assistant to baseball operations.
It was an emotional day for Ellis in July 2011 when the A’s dealt him to Colorado. He finished his career playing two years for the Dodgers and one for the Cardinals. His .991 fielding percentage is fifth-best all-time among Major League second basemen.
“I’ve been away from this organization a little while , so it’s fun,” he said. “It kind of brings back some memories. I know it’s a different (spring) ballpark, a different venue. But to see some of the same faces around the clubhouse, and be out here with Hatty and Kotsay, is really neat.
"I have a ton of respect for Bob Melvin. I was only with him for three weeks (before being traded), but the way he treated me was real good. I love his preparation and the way he runs a team. It’s fun to be out here.”