Ellis returns to A's camp as special instructor

March 7th, 2016
Mark Ellis' .991 career fielding percentage is fifth all-time among second basemen. (Jane Lee)

MESA, Ariz. -- Mark Ellis emerged from the A's clubhouse and bounded up the dugout steps on Monday morning, readying to enter the Ron Washington school of defense just like old times, except only now as an instructor.

"I started working out again last week because I knew I had to put a uniform on," Ellis said, smiling.

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The longtime A's second baseman has emerged from retirement, at least temporarily, to put back on the green and gold and join his former team as a guest instructor in big league camp. He'll be working with a large crop of young infielders during his weeklong stay.

"It's always nice to be around Mark Ellis," Washington said. "One of the greatest guys in the world. He certainly knows a little bit about infield. So for me, it's a pleasure to have him around and listen to what he has to say about what those guys are doing out there. We're just going to work in conjunction with each other."

"To see Wash do his thing in the morning, I think that's what I'm going to enjoy," Ellis said. "It's always fun to see how guys work in the morning and then see how it translates to the game."

Ellis established himself as one of the game's premier defenders during his 12-year Major League career. Nine of those seasons were spent with the A's, who immediately reached out to Ellis about a potential reunion when he announced his retirement last spring.

Ellis served as an instructor during instructional league workouts in the fall, allowing him the opportunity to work with A's shortstop prospect Richie Martin -- "He's freakishly athletic," Ellis said. He also got reacquainted with the game, albeit in a different role.

Soon enough, A's general manager David Forst was on the phone speaking to Ellis about a Spring Training gig.

"It was an easy decision, just to get back here on the baseball field and put a uniform on," Ellis said. "It's such a great time of year to set a foundation with some of these guys and to learn a program, learn a routine and get your work in and get in shape and all that. For a lot of these guys, I think it's their first time working with Wash, so it's going to be a huge advantage for them."

"Good resource to have," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Ellis. "Between he and Wash, we made it a point to tell not only our younger players, but our veteran guys, 'This is about as good of a sounding board as you can get.' He played in Oakland a long time and knows what we're all about, so it's really great to have him here."

Ellis' first tour with the A's ended with an emotional goodbye in the summer of 2011, when he was dealt to the Rockies. He spent each of his next two seasons with the Dodgers and his last with the Cardinals, finishing with a career .991 fielding percentage -- fifth best all-time among second basemen.

He's not sure if he's ready to commit himself to a full-time coaching gig, having greatly enjoyed his time at home with family during the last year.

"I'm just going to enjoy this week," Ellis said. "It'll be fun to be out here, and whatever comes of it, we'll see."

He'll have some former teammates around him in bench coach Mark Kotsay and special assistant to baseball operations Scott Hatteberg.

"It's fun to wear this uniform again," Ellis said. "I've been away from this organization for a little while, so it kind of brings back some memories a little bit. I know it's a different ballpark, a different venue, but to see some of the same faces in 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, but the way he treated me was really good, and I love the way his preparation and the way he runs a team."

"Once they get the itch," Melvin said, "this is kind of the perfect segue for him to come back and be part of it again. When you've been on the field for so many years, it's in your blood, so hopefully he'll have a good five or six days here and want to maybe expand it down the road. Certainly we're hoping that's with us."