Sports

Harbaugh's baseball lesson leads to futility

 

By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

In the spirit of the World Series, Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh opened Tuesday's weekly press conference with his memories of playing baseball for Palo Alto High and the Palo Alto American Legion.

He told of the time his father taught him the Charlie Lau way of hitting. Lau was a hitting guru with the Kansas City Royals. George Brett, who once flirted with batting .400 for a season, was his star pupil.

"My dad came home and was talking about this way of hitting," Harbaugh said. "I was hitting .417 the first couple of weeks and then suddenly couldn't get the ball out of the infield."

Harbaugh said he finally approached Legion coach Tom Dunton, who also spent 26 years as the pitching coach at Stanford.

Dunton asked to see his swing and Harbaugh showed him he was "chopping wood." Dunton nodded, took the bat and showed Harbaugh that after "chopping wood, you have to follow through."

It's a good story, even if it didn't happen.

Menlo-Atherton grad Kevin Dunton was Harbaugh's teammate on the Legion team, which had just won two consecutive state titles (1979, 1980) with future major-league Bob Melvin leading the team.

The video crew

Mike Gleeson, now in his 18th year overseeing video production for the Stanford athletic department, provides a "vital" service to Harbaugh and the football team in preparation for each week's game.

"He's here almost as much as the coaching staff," Harbaugh said. "He's filming, editing, and managing technical aspects too. He's a valuable member of the team."

The digital age has allowed for more complex breakdown of film than ever before, giving any player instant access to his position and opponents' tendencies.

"You can slice and dice it any way you want," Harbaugh said. "Each player can isolate on his own match-up."

That's in stark contrast to the days of 16- and 8-millimeter film, which had to be edited into stripes and reconnected for individual consumption.

Players are able to come in on their own time to review film in however manner they wish, allowing for individual study.

Howell on the mend

Stanford cornerback Delano Howell could return to the secondary this week, an added bonus against what has been described as "one of the best group" of receivers in the Pac-10 Conference.

Howell, who sustained an undisclosed injury, missed the Washington State game, in which Cougars' quarterback Jeff Tuel hit a late 74-yard touchdown pass against the Cardinal last Saturday.

"He is working hard to get back on the field," Stanford junior safety Michael Thomas said. "I'd say he'll play."

Harbaugh was a little more ambivalent in his diagnosis.

"It would be great if Howell was back this week," he said. "We'll see."

Wide receiver Chris Owusu remains iffy following a left hand injury incurred against USC. He also missed the victory over the Cougars, though senior Ryan Whalen returned to the lineup after missing three games with a dislocated elbow.

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