OAKLAND -- You wouldn't imagine, on the surface, that combustible Jim Harbaugh and stately Bob Melvin could be close friends or even passable acquaintances.
That contrast seems to be the fun part of this new Bay Area coaching connection, though.
"He brings his glove to the game, which is hilarious," a giggling Melvin said of Harbaugh's intense visits to A's games this summer.
"But if you know him, it's not surprising."
Not surprising at all for anybody who has watched Harbaugh during 49ers games, during news conferences or during any and every waking Harbaugh moment.
Harbaugh loves baseball. As a teenager, he played on the same Palo Alto-area American Legion team that Melvin had starred on two years earlier. And when he goes to baseball games -- including the six he attended in a two-week span last month -- Harbaugh, 50, absolutely wants to come home with a foul ball.
"Yeah, I was very disappointed I didn't get a ball," Harbaugh said, shaking his head solemnly during a break in 49ers camp last week. "That's just every time I've ever gone to a baseball game, that's my main focus. Going and getting a ball. ...
"I've got 20. Got my 20th at a Giants game a year or two ago."
A few weeks ago, Harbaugh went to an A's game with his wife, Sarah; he didn't get near a foul ball, but when Harbaugh stopped into Melvin's office afterward, the two men -- who had never formally met -- bonded immediately.
"Very smart guy," Harbaugh said of Melvin, 52. "Very organized. They've got a great morale over there. ... I was just really enjoying seeing them do what they do and meeting some of the players and just how important accomplishing the mission was.
"There was a competitive fire; I just like being near it, you know?"
Melvin invited Harbaugh to come early to watch pregame work at a future date, which Harbaugh immediately accepted; he spent hours with Melvin and the A's before an interleague game at AT&T Park, and the two have been exchanging texts ever since.
This isn't just about their shared Peninsula experience -- though Harbaugh still talks about Melvin as a "baseball legend" from his Menlo days; it's about the entire journey they've both taken and their intertwined coaching successes.
When I talked to Melvin on Wednesday, he grinned the entire time I was asking about Harbaugh.
And it was Harbaugh who initially brought to my attention his new friendship with Melvin, sounding as if he couldn't believe how lucky he was to find a kindred spirit so nearby.
"I got over there early one day, got to go down and watch (Melvin) in the cages, watch him meet with his coaches and interact in the locker room and watch him in the dugout," Harbaugh said.
"What struck me is ... it seemed very similar to what I do. And it was almost like watching myself in videotape. Kind of wish I had that and maybe that's the way to get it, just watch other coaches do what they do.
"That's really all the information I have, other than I know he's really good. He was really good before he was with the A's. He was really good when he was with the Diamondbacks."
Harbaugh obviously was a star quarterback in high school; how well did he play baseball?
Harbaugh shrugged and said he clearly wasn't good enough to play at Michigan alongside Barry Larkin and Hal Morris at that time. (Harbaugh did OK on the Wolverines football team, of course.)
"He told me about some of his Palo Alto legion days," Melvin said of Harbaugh, "and I guess he had a fairly high batting average at some point and then tried a different hitting philosophy that didn't work out for him. And he was pretty upset about it."
That's Melvin's point about Harbaugh: There are no false notes in the 49ers coach; what you see on the sidelines is what you see in the stands or on a visit to the manager's office.
"No doubt about it," Melvin said. "And that's what I really admire about him.
"Sometimes you can try to be somebody else as far as how you deal with the media or how you deal with the fan base or how you deal with your front office or your players.
"He is the same guy to everybody. He's extremely committed to what he does. That's really what he cares about, doing what's best for his team. And boy, you have to admire that."
Speaking of total commitment, Harbaugh finished our baseball conversation with possibly the Most Harbaugh anecdote ever, told proudly and vividly.
"I was maybe 5, I think my brother was 7, we went to a Cleveland Indians game," Harbaugh said. "You could meet a player after the game. And I had to go to the bathroom really bad. So I had to make a decision. ... It was either go to the bathroom and not get a picture, or do it right there in my pants.
"So I chose to go in my pants and my parents have this picture of a big ring right here (points to an obvious place on the front of his pants).
"I just want that picture for some reason. I really want that picture."
Harbaugh and I laughed about this story for at least five more minutes, long after I turned off my tape recorder; he has probably already told it to Melvin, who I'm sure appreciated the moral of the story.
They're two very different men, but they're both committed to pushing their teams to victory -- and now they're friends, allies and absolute peers.
THEARON W. HENDERSON/GETTY IMAGES
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, left, and A's manager Bob Melvin didn't formally meet until recently, but the two bonded instantly.
TALE OF Two COACHES
Bob Melvin Jim Harbaugh
A's (2011-present) Current team 49ers (2011-present)
804-746 Career managerial record 36-11-1
0 World Series titles/Super Bowl titles 0
2 (2007, 2012) Manager/coach of year 1 (2011)
Catcher Position (as player) Quarterback
52 Age 50
Menlo Atherton High school Palo Alto
Cal College Michigan