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Michigan's Jim Harbaugh makes Tigers coaching debut

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Of course, Jim Harbaugh showed up in khakis.

The famed University of Michigan football coach arrived with his football team to McKechnie Field on Wednesday afternoon to the sound of the school's fight song, but he quickly ditched his notorious getup for a Detroit Tigers uniform.

Harbaugh joined Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and staff on the field, where he made his Grapefruit League coaching debut at first base in the club's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"Hey, what a big thrill," Harbaugh said after chatting in the Tigers clubhouse with Ausmus & Co. "Just being at a big league park, being in the locker room, being in the skip's office. That's all just very, very exciting."

Harbaugh, who enters his second season as the Wolverines head coach, said he was far less nervous this time around than when he threw out the first pitch at a Tigers game last year.

What was he looking forward to doing most during the game?

"I hope to get a chance to send a runner and be right," Harbaugh said, laughing and shaking his head when asked if he planned to argue balls and strikes.

"My main concern is having nobody get picked off of first base and then secondly, don't get hit by a line drive," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh did not address the Tigers clubhouse before the game, but Pirates manager and Michigan native Clint Hurdle did give the U of M players a little pep talk before the first pitch.

"Just an attitude of gratitude, to be able to do this. Personally, for our whole team -- most of our guys are here for the game -- and I appreciate Clint Hurdle and the Pirates organization for helping us out," Harbaugh said. "I think it's going to be a great day."

Harbaugh, who is good buddies with Hurdle, sounds like he will be keeping tabs on the Tigers as well in 2016.

"Yeah, I think it's going to be a great season," Harbaugh said. "Great season."

Harbaugh remained at first base for three innings -- the maximum allowed by Major League Baseball -- before being replaced by Alan Trammell. Ausmus said he was into the game and was picking his brain about events on the field during play.

"It was fun to have him there," Ausmus said.

Ausmus praised Harbaugh's infectious attitude and the enthusiasm he has created around his program.

"I think he's got a very charismatic, intelligent, big personality. It seems to play well, especially with the young players," Ausmus said before the game. "He deserves the accolades, deserves the credit."

That said, Ausmus was careful not to pledge any allegiances to the Wolverines. He's well aware of the divisive nature of the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State and wanted no part in taking sides.

Ausmus said that if Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio ever wanted to try his hand at first base, he would have an open invitation.

"We can arrange that as well."