SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — At least once every time Bob Melvin came to San Francisco as a visiting manager, he allowed himself to believe that maybe someday he would wear a Giants uniform again.
Running the bleachers before games, Melvin would glance out at iconic McCovey Cove. Admittedly superstitious, he used to take good-luck, head-first plunges down the 60-foot Coca-Cola slide beyond left field until they locked the attraction.
On Wednesday, after buttoning up his new No. 6 Giants jersey as the franchise’s 39th manager, Melvin called it “surreal” that this moment was actually happening.
After 20 years as a big league manager — including a recent, turbulent end to his time guiding the rival San Diego Padres — Melvin is coming home.
“I think probably every series I would look in that dugout and look over to the other side and say, ‘Maybe someday, hopefully,’” said Melvin, who turns 62 on Saturday. “There were always times here, I can admit that now, that I was hoping at some point in time I’d come back.”
The Giants are counting on their recent division rival immediately turning them back into a contender in the talented NL West.
Melvin, a Bay Area native and former Giants player who also managed for a decade in Oakland, emerged as a candidate to replace Gabe Kapler even as he remained contractually obligated to the Padres for one more year. San Diego granted permission for the Giants to pursue Melvin, and Wednesday completed a whirlwind few days for both franchises.
There will be no compensation due to the Padres, according to Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, who thanked San Diego “for being accommodating and allowing us to pursue the perfect candidate and for giving Bob the opportunity to come home.”
Zaidi has agreed to a deal that takes him through the 2026 season along with Melvin’s three-year pact. Zaidi had one year remaining on his contract, and Melvin said he wouldn’t have signed anything longer than Zaidi’s term. The two go back to their time together with Oakland.
Speaking of financial exchanges, Melvin knows he might need to strike an agreement with infielder Casey Schmitt, who had been wearing Melvin’s No. 6.
Melvin didn’t even interview formally with Zaidi until they realized they might want a chat about that fact.
“We had a really great partnership in Oakland, had success there,” Zaidi said. He also said that had little to do with hiring Melvin now.
“We just view Bob as the perfect manager and perfect leader for this team and this organization right now,” Zaidi said. “… Hearing from players how passionate they are about playing for him, about his leadership, about his care for them, there are so many players out there who played for Bob who to this day will say he is the best manager they’ve ever played for, and that carried so much weight for us.”
Melvin, a three-time Manager of the Year who has won the award in both leagues, went 171-153 with the big-spending Padres. He has a career record of 1,517-1,425 with eight postseason appearances while guiding Arizona, Seattle, Oakland and San Diego.
He didn’t address a reported rift in his relationship with Padres general manager A.J. Preller other than to say another season in San Diego would have been difficult.
“I think there was a narrative at the end that probably wasn’t going to go away, me being on the last year of my contract,” Melvin said. “I think as far as that organization goes, it’s probably not fair if that narrative continued through next year.
“So all things considered, this opportunity came about, and for all the reasons I stated this feels like the right one for me, but I very much enjoyed my time in San Diego. It just seemed like with a lot of things that were popping up there, it was time to move on.”
Preller said the Padres “understood it was a unique opportunity in San Fran for him to go back home. This was the one job that definitely appealed to him outside of San Diego.”
According to Preller, Melvin inquired a day after the season ended how the Padres would handle it if a team asked permission to interview him. Preller told the veteran manager the club would address it if it happened, and Preller said he and Melvin met last week in Arizona to discuss the coaching staff and roster.
“In the last few days when it was the Giants, I think he just explained that was a job he at least wanted to listen on,” Preller said. “We felt like there clearly was a path forward. We have a good group and could have success. This gives an opportunity to really start focusing on adding a manager who fits our team and our clubhouse.”
A native of nearby Palo Alto, California, Melvin attended the University of California-Berkeley and played for his hometown Giants from 1986-88.
He replaces Kapler, who was fired with three days remaining in the season. Kapler was 295-248 over three-plus seasons, leading the team to a franchise-record 107 wins to edge the 106-win Dodgers for the NL West title in 2021 before missing the playoffs the last two years.
For now, Melvin still can’t quite believe he’s in this position at last. He recalled Wednesday how as a boy living on the Peninsula south of San Francisco he used to wait outside Willie Mays’ home for the “Say Hey Kid” to come driving along in his pink Cadillac, just to get a wave or smile from the eventual Hall of Famer.
Melvin was in the stands for Mays’ 3,000th career hit.
Then, as a player for the Giants, Melvin’s locker once was sandwiched between Mays’ and Willie McCovey’s — two former greats who still had their own spaces in the clubhouse at Candlestick Park.
“And growing up here, I didn’t know what to do,” Melvin recalled, smiling. “I was like, ‘Am I in the right place here?’”
Now, Melvin has no doubt he is exactly where he should be at last.
AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this report.
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