'I love this place': Melvin back in Oakland after nearly 2 years

September 16th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. Alex Espinoza wrote the topper for Saturday's newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Any dog owner who comes home after a long vacation loves to open their door and see their pooch wagging its tail.

That’s how Bob Melvin felt as he showed up to the Oakland Coliseum on Friday -- nearly eight hours before first pitch -- in his first trip back since becoming the Padres' manager after the 2021 season.

As Melvin walked out to the field and got ready to run stairs for exercise, he got a warm welcome from longtime head groundskeeper Clay Wood and his beloved dog, Reba.

“She remembered me and came running,” Melvin told reporters Friday. “That was a good feeling right away.”

After having dinner with A’s traveling secretary Mickey Morabito Thursday and general manager David Forst Friday, it sure feels like a homecoming for Melvin, who guided the A’s from 2011-21.

“I’ve been looking forward to coming back here,” Melvin said. “I love this place. … It doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles of all the other places, but it means a lot to me.”

Melvin is the winningest manager in A’s history, with a career record of 853-764. His wins are the second highest in franchise history behind Philadelphia A’s legend Connie Mack (3,582). The A’s made six playoff appearances under his watch.

There’s a lot of roster turnover in Oakland these days, but players like Paul Blackburn, Tony Kemp, Seth Brown and James Kaprielian played for Melvin and know the immense impact he had on the organization. 

“I have the utmost respect for him and the way he handles his business and the way he handles his job in baseball,” Blackburn said. “He’s a man of few words, but I feel like his presence just kind of speaks for itself.”

Following the 2021 season, which ended with an 86-76 record and no playoff appearance, the A’s let Melvin interview with the Padres, and he ultimately took the job.

“They were great -- whether it was [owner] John [Fisher] or it was [senior advisor] Billy [Beane] -- in telling me that it was going be a different direction,” Melvin said. “They were good enough to let me go somewhere else and try something different.”

Once Kemp saw Melvin leave, he figured another rebuild was coming.

“Once that happened, you could kind of see the writing on the wall,” Kemp said. “You can’t blame him. He was here 10-plus years and had a lot of really good wins with teams who played really hard for him. Definitely a guy that you want to play for. He was just a tremendous leader and a guy you always look up to.”

A’s manager Mark Kotsay said he still leans on Melvin as a resource after serving as an assistant for five seasons.

“The knowledge he passed along, I don’t think I would be sitting here today without that,” Kotsay said. “Can’t thank him enough for it. … He’s someone I reach out to at times when you just need a voice and someone who has gone through it. He’s always there. It’s been great.”

Asked if the two skippers had a side bet going for the three-game series, Kotsay laughed.

“There’s no side bet,” Kotsay said. “Bob likes those fine dining restaurants that are generally Michelin-star.”