SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League has the unrivaled reputation of being baseball's premier environment for future Major Leaguers.
The AFL, however, is not limited to developing players. It is also a testing and proving ground for future managers and one of those who trod on that ground, Bob Melvin, on Friday night was celebrated as the latest inductee into the AFL Hall of Fame.
"I'm truly honored by this. When you see some of the names you're joining, it certainly is humbling," Melvin said prior to his induction before the Glendale-Scottsdale game in Scottsdale Stadium.
Melvin is a two-time Manager of the Year, once in each league, possibly on his way to a third. The A's skipper is one of three finalists to for the American League award he earned last season.
But when he managed the AFL's Maryvale Saguaros in 1999, it was the very first managerial experience for the former catcher who had retired only five years earlier.
As part of Friday night's ceremony, Melvin's No. 3 Saguaro uniform was retired.
Melvin credits the AFL exposure of managing a team comprised of prospects from five different organizations with turning him into a Major League manager -- only four years later, with the Seattle Mariners.
"You were always aware of being watched," Melvin recalled. "And in talking with the general managers from the different organizations at the time, you realized those conversations had an impact in getting you on the map."
Melvin was not alone in getting to use the AFL as a launching pad into the manager's office. Former Giants, Cubs and Reds skipper Dusty Baker, former Brewers manager Davey Lopes and Matt Williams, the freshly minted manager of the Nationals, all cut their managerial teeth in this league.
As Melvin alluded, the AFL Hall of Fame's roster includes baseball royalty, all of whom left their footprints in the desert sand. The league's shrine was formed in 2001, nine years after the AFL's inaugural 1992 season.
AFL director Steve Cobb couldn't help becoming a major name-dropper in kicking off Friday night's ceremony.
"Chris Carpenter, Nomar Garciaparra, Ryan Howard, Brian Giles, Roy Halladay, Torii Hunter, Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols," Cobb began his recital.
The enshrined also includes 10 managers. But Melvin is the only one with Manager of the Year honors in both leagues, having earlier received that honor in 2007 with the D-backs. Melvin is also the first of 164 members of the A's with ties to the AFL to graduate to its Hall of Fame.
Roland Hemond, who before becoming the architect and chairman of the AFL was the GM of the 1989-91 Orioles with whom Melvin spent part of his playing career, called being able to help salute him Friday night "a great honor."
"So many graduates have made us proud, and tonight is another," Hemond said before turning to Melvin and adding, "I hope someday you will be in the National Hall of Fame at Cooperstown."
After posing with his framed old Saguaros uniform and seeing the banner depicting his retired No. 3 unfurled on the right-field fence, Melvin told a very good Friday night AFL crowd, "This is an evening you never forget."
"I'm lucky enough to be approaching my 11th year as a big league manager. So take note," Melvin said, alternately looking into the dugouts of both the Desert Dogs and Scorpions, "you could not be in a better breeding ground to get to the big leagues. I know firsthand this is a springboard to bigger and better things.
"Thank you very much for letting me be a part of a night like this, and a small part of the Fall League."
Melvin is the first of this year's three AFL Hall of Fame selectees to be actually inducted. Darin Erstad, the former Angels outfielder who caught the final out of the 2002 World Series, will have his enshrinement on Wednesday. The induction of the third honoree, Dustin Pedroia, will be delayed by his upcoming surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.