Bonds happy but 'nervous' to be in Giants camp
Career home run leader spending the week working as guest hitting instructor
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds put on a San Francisco Giants uniform for the first time in 6 1/2 years Monday and returned to the team as a special hitting coach for one week of Spring Training.
With Giants manager Bruce Bochy sitting by his side, Bonds was calm and collected as he addressed the assembled media in a 26-minute, mid-morning press conference at Scottsdale Stadium.
First, Bonds effusively thanked Bochy, his last big league manager, and "the Giants organization for bringing me back."
"It feels really good to be back. It feels really good to participate in this and it's good to give back to the game that I love," Major League Baseball's all-time home run leader said. "Right now, I'll only be here for seven days. Hopefully I'm here for longer."
With Bonds' seemingly endless legal problems behind him, he said "the timing was right" to rejoin the organization he played for from 1993 to the end of his playing career in 2007.
"Right now, I'm more nervous about this than playing, because back then it was only my mind and me," said Bonds, 49. "Now I have to help other players, so I'm more nervous about being on this side than on my side. Hopefully, I can bring some good value to the ballclub. Hopefully, I can bring some good value to these guys."
Bonds, whose career started with the Pirates, is the all-time leader with 762 homers and 2,558 walks, a record 688 of them intentional. His .444 on-base percentage is sixth all-time, his .607 slugging percentage is fifth, and his 1.051 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) is fourth.
Bochy, who has guided the Giants to a pair of World Series titles in Bonds' absence, said the club reached out to the former All-Star and Gold Glove left fielder just as they do to a number of their former great players who come to camp for a cameo coaching role.
"Barry touched on it, the timing was right on both sides," Bochy said. "That's why it's happening now. We welcome all former players. You look at our camp. Jeff Kent just left. J.T. Snow is here. Rich Aurilia is here. Randy Winn is here. Will Clark's coming in. And we're excited to have Barry here, who can help out in so many different aspects of the game."
Bochy added that Bonds' role could be expanded.
"If Barry finds out this week that he's enjoying this, we welcome back our former greats," Bochy said. "We encourage it and we appreciate what they do want to give back to our players. Yes, we would always have a welcome mat out there for him."
To make his possible presence at AT&T Park easier, Bonds recently relocated from Los Angeles back to San Francisco because "it's my home, it's my town, it's my city, this is my family."
He was born in Riverside, Calif., but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, when his father, Bobby, played for the team. His godfather, Willie Mays, also was a major influence on him.
Bonds also responded to a number of issues during the news conference. But asked if he wanted to address the subject of performance-enhancing drugs, Bonds declined to answer.
"I already went to court," he said, "and that's where I'll leave it."
Asked if he thought he belonged in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Bonds said: "Without a doubt."
But he declined to offer any advice to voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, who in Bonds' first two years of eligibility, have overwhelmingly rejected him for the Hall as they have with other suspected PED users. Bonds slipped slightly in the voting from 36.2 percent in 2013, his first appearance on the ballot, to 34.7 earlier this year.
"I think you guys are all adults," Bonds said. "I have no advice for you."
Bonds also declined to expound upon the one-year suspension of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for violating the Major League drug agreement.
"I would talk to Alex Rodriguez on a one-to-one basis," he said. "We're friends and I really wouldn't talk about it in a press conference. I respect him as an athlete and always will. I will not have a press conference over that."
Told that incoming Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux called Bonds the toughest hitter he ever had to face, Bonds said: "What does that say? It says two minds think the same. He was the best [pitcher] I've ever seen, the best ever. We both knew the same thing so it made it more interesting. When two people are that good and know the same thing, it just makes chess a lot longer, but a lot more fun."
Instead, Bonds tried to guide the conference back to the issue at hand: his return as a special coach.
"My point is, I'm not the focal point anymore," Bonds said. "The focus is with these guys. I'm here for these guys."
Asked if he wants to manage, Bonds demurred.
"I just want to get through these seven days and see if I can do this first," he said. "This is all new to me on this side of the fence. I was accustomed to the other side of the fence. I'm going to take baby steps at it. I'm going to work as hard at it as I did as a player. But I think it's too hard to be a manager. I think what Bochy does is too hard for me."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.