Melvin and Counsell were together for two separate two-year periods with the Arizona D-backs. The first stretch, which included the D-backs' 2001 World Series championship, Melvin was a bench coach, while Counsell was an integral part of the D-backs as an infielder. In 2005-06 Counsell was still an integral part of the Arizona team, and Melvin had become the D-Backs manager.
Melvin, now in his 13th season as a big league manager, has been named Manager of the Year in both leagues. Counsell is in his first full season of managing the rebuilding Brewers.
Melvin said that he spotted managerial possibilities in Counsell very early.
"I even told him that," Melvin said. "He asked all the right questions as a player, all the questions you would think someone would ask who watches the game as a manager does. I thought that once he was done playing -- and he had a nice career and played for a long time -- that he would do something like this."
Counsell said that Melvin assisted him greatly along the way.
"As a manager he just allowed me a window into the decisions that were kind of on his plate," Counsell said. "And he also allowed me freedom on the field to make my own decisions. It was like: 'You make the decisions. Use your instincts.' That's coaching, if you recognize the players who can do that and you give them the decision-making power. You're taking it away from yourself as a manager.
"That was pretty meaningful to me and I think it allowed me to take my game to another level. I always appreciated that and it made me want to know more about how he made decisions.
"The other thing is at the end of my time in Arizona, Stephen Drew was coming up and he was a big prospect and a really good player. My ending in Arizona was his start in Arizona. We overlapped a little bit. And I respected the way [Melvin] treated the situation. It was a tough situation and I thought he handled it right for both of us."
Melvin, when told that Counsell had suggested that he had opened the door for him as a manager, smiled and replied:
"I don't know if I opened the door, or he just came in. But yeah, it was one or the other. I spent a lot of time with him, and he would ask a lot of questions; you know, bullpen stuff, the difference between the National League and American League game, it was pretty all-encompassing and I got to be very close to him. So I appreciate that he says that, but regardless of who he was around, he would have been doing this."
The student got the better of the teacher in the two-game series at Miller Park this week, the Brewers beating the A's 5-4 Tuesday night and 4-0 Wednesday night. The A's have been struck with a wave of injuries. The Brewers have been more than simply competitive, going 20-16 since May 1. This is Counsell's first managing job, but Melvin believes Counsell could succeed in any managerial situation.
"I think he could handle any team," Melvin said. "He could handle a veteran team that was built to win right now. He was always a major influence in the clubhouse. We had a team in Arizona in '01 that won a World Series with strictly veteran players. He was a veteran guy, but not like some of the other veteran guys, but he was one of the bigger voices in the clubhouse. I think he could handle any team that was thrown to him."
And for Counsell, the assistance that Melvin has given him remains invaluable.
"He was more than your manager," Counsell said. "It felt like he was also your friend. But it was a working relationship. It can be difficult. There are boundaries and we butted heads once in a while on some things. But we were able to communicate through it and talk through it and I know it led to better things for me as a player and I always appreciated that."
Both Counsell, 45, and Melvin, 54, worked in a variety of organizational baseball jobs before becoming managers. Now that he is a manager, Counsell still seeks out Melvin for advice.
"I value Bob's opinion a lot. I've asked him questions at times, for sure. I do, because I've always thought -- and maybe this is me being hopeful -- that we saw the games in a similar light, and react to situations in a similar way, and maybe ask the same questions. The questions I would have, he would always have thought of. I think it's important for anybody, no matter what you're doing, to have people like that. I definitely consider Bob one of those guys."