University of Michigan coach, lifelong baseball fan wears Fidrych jersey
By Alejandro Zúñiga
DETROIT -- During Jim Harbaugh's Aerial Assault quarterback camp earlier this month in Ann Arbor, Mich., the University of Michigan football coach showed off his baseball skills, picking throws off the turf as if he were a first baseman.
On Tuesday at Comerica Park, he showcased his arm. Wearing a Mark Fidrych jersey, Harbaugh tossed the ceremonial first pitch to manager Brad Ausmus before the Tigers' series opener against Pittsburgh. The throw had good velocity, but even armchair umpires would've agreed it came in a tad high.
Ausmus said he hadn't met Harbaugh before Tuesday, but the coach won over his fandom -- at least for the day.
"Jim's here today, so I'm a Michigan fan today," Ausmus said. "When Michigan State shows up, I'll be a Spartan fan."
Harbaugh, though, has fond memories of Ausmus. The former catcher once tossed Harbaugh's family a ball at a Brewers game, a moment which they still "marvel."
"[Ausmus] has got the ball, so he's coming off the field, and my dad stands up and he's like, "Hey catch! Catch! There's a kid here! Ball for the kid!" Harbaugh recalled, imitating his father by standing and gesticulating. "And Brad just went -- boom. Right from his hip. Hit my dad right in the right hand. Didn't even have to move the hand."
The former collegiate and NFL quarterback said he has been a lifelong baseball fan. In fact, he was once a solid player and dreamed of being a big leaguer, until his father, Jack, tried to teach him the Charley Lau theory of hitting, which ruined his swing.
"The rest of the season, I could not get the ball out of the infield," Harbaugh said, again standing to demonstrate a flawed follow-through.
But Harbaugh doesn't blame Lau -- he says Jack didn't instruct him properly.
"I was a victim of overcoaching by my dad," Harbaugh said.
But Harbaugh has gotten his crack at baseball this year. On March 7, wearing high socks and a No. 4 jersey, he took over duties as the Athletics' first-base coach during a Spring Training game. And on Tuesday, he was greeted by loud cheers -- and a spattering of boos -- at Comerica Park, where he fired a heater into Ausmus' glove.
"Been practicing since I was five years old," Harbaugh said.
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.