Friendly Rivals

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- With Stanford products Sam Fuld and Michael Taylor both angling to make the A's out of camp, it's wise for them not to tempt fate when talking to their skipper -- a former Cal catcher -- about the NCAA Tournament.

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- With a win over No. 2-seeded Kansas on Sunday, the Stanford basketball team was able to get to a Sweet 16 under head coach Johnny Dawkins before rival California got there with former Cardinal head coach Mike Montgomery. But you won't catch the three – yes, three -- former Stanford baseball players on the Oakland Athletics' spring training roster crowing about it too much.

"They do like to play from time to time," says Oakland manager – and former Golden Bears catcher -- Bob Melvin, of Michael Taylor, Sam Fuld and Jed Lowrie.

"And we don't hold that against them, really, at least as far as they're going out and performing," Melvin says of his trio of Cardinal. "In the clubhouse, a little bit. They're all terrific kids, very smart guys, they understand the game. You see the way Fuld goes about his business at all three of those spots, you don't have to tell him anything. He's always aware of what's going on. Jed's the same way, and Michael's easy to manage, whether it's in spring training or when he comes up during the season. They come as-advertised, as far as the smarts go. Maybe not to the extent of a Cal guy, though."

Taylor speaks just like one would expect a Stanford Political Science major to speak, when it comes to giving the skipper a little back-sass.

"A wise man once said, ‘Do not bite the hand that feeds you,' so if Bob comes at us, maybe, but I don't seek him out," Taylor smiles.

Fuld says he's didn't strut around about the Cardinal's win over the Bears late in the season, because Cal downed Stanford earlier at Maples Pavilion. In fact, he didn't even know Melvin was a Cal alumnus when he first joined the A's.

"Initially, when I was actually introduced to Bob, when I first signed, I was unaware that he was a Berkeley guy, so he let me know really quick," Fuld says.

Fuld and the third former Cardinal in green and gold -- Lowrie -- played together on The Farm, but never thought that they'd cross paths again at the next level, much less playing for a former Golden Bear.

"It's great. It's comforting. It's always comforting coming to a new team and having some guys that you've played with, that you're familiar with. The Stanford bond is a close one, and I think it's exciting to reunite with them," says Fuld, who graduated from Stanford with a degree in economics in 2004. "I think we all had the goal of getting to the big leagues. We didn't have the foresight to necessarily envision us being together in the big leagues. There are 30 teams out there, so the chances are unlikely, but I don't think we ever talked about it, but there was certainly the potential for that, with the number of great players that we have."

While Lowrie is just about a lock to break camp with the big club, Fuld is still trying to make the roster after being invited as a non-roster invitee, and he's doing quite a job of it, hitting .298 in 17 spring games, with a double, three triples and a home run.

Taylor – who is out of minor league options – is having his best big league spring training, hitting .308 in 22 games, with five doubles, a triple, three home runs and 10 RBIs.

"I think that I just need to continue to improve. It's an interesting year for me. I'm out of options, so you kind of just come in and try to get ready for the season, but also just show that I'm continuing to get better and I'm a better player this year than I was last year. Whether it's this team or another team, you want to show that you can be a piece," says Taylor, who played at Stanford from 2005-07. "Friends, family and everyone ask me what's going to happen this year, and I'm like, ‘Your guess is as good as mine.' I'm just trying to come out and work with our coaching staff and just continue to get a little bit better every day."

The three former Cardinal and the former Golden Bear do have one thing in common, other than their current uniforms: They all make it a point to get back to their alma maters, when time allows. For Melvin, that has meant attending most of the Cal basketball home games at Haas Pavilion this season.

"I've been to quite a few," Melvin laughs. "Even when I was there, I didn't go to that many. It's been a lot of fun. I have a pretty good record over there, too."

For the three former Stanford players, that may mean the occasional trip back down to the South Bay, if they all break camp with the big club.

"Coming in to Oakland as a visitor, I've checked in with [head coach Mark] Marquess on a couple of occasions, but we understand that, at this point, he's 100 percent locked in to his season," Fuld says. "Maybe if we're up there together in Oakland, we'll pick a day to come down to the Farm and say ‘Hi.'"

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