Bonds reflects on Aaron chase, Hall chances
All-time home run leader talks about past in lengthy Q&A session
SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been five years since the night at AT&T Park when Barry Bonds hit his 756th homer into the center-field bleachers off Nationals left-handed reliever Mike Bacsik."No one will ever take that away. No one can ever take that away," Bonds said that night. Bonds finished his career with 762 home runs when the Giants declined to bring him back for the 2008 season. He was tried in federal court in 2011 for perjury about his alleged performance-enhancing drug use and was found guilty on one count of obstruction of justice, which he is fighting on appeal. Bonds, 48, talked with Giants officials about coming back as an organizational hitting coach, and he'll be on the ballot for the first time for the Hall of Fame in 2013. The son of late Giants outfielder Bobby Bonds and godson to Hall of Famer Willie Mays, Bonds sat down to talk with MLB.com recently at AT&T Park. MLB.com: It's hard to believe that it's been five years since your run at Aaron. Bonds: It seems like it was right around the corner. It was a good period of time. It was a good time. Despite all of the things that were going on, it was still fun. It was fun to perform in front of the fans. It was great to be in my Giants uniform doing it. I wish at the same time we could have won the championship. That was important. Through it all was fun, a lot of fun. MLB.com: What do you remember most about it? Bonds: We could be here for a long time if you wanted me to remember everything. All I can remember is trying to remain focused through the whole thing. Everybody was intense about it. Everybody was there. You go from one state to the next. Every stadium was sold out. You try to give your best for everyone. You try to get as much rest as possible. You try and answer the same questions over and over again. You try to give the best answers you can at the moment, but at the same time you're thinking about what's best for you and the team. And then, trying to put on a great performance and hopefully things go right. At times, I felt like a person caught in the middle of it, trying to do something special to help your team win, but also doing something inspiring for the fans to see. MLB.com: What are your reflections on the night you broke Aaron's record? Bonds: I felt relieved a little bit, but at the same time excited, at the same time I felt blessed, at the same time I felt grateful to Aaron that he set something so significant there to give us something to shoot for. I can go on and on and on with so many different kinds of feelings and so many different kinds of emotions. I don't know if they're right or wrong. You know what I mean? They are what they are. My family was there, my kids, the city. I'm glad I did it in San Francisco. MLB.com: Anything you would have done differently? Bonds: I got a ball and I hit it, so in that way there's nothing I would have done differently. As far as handling the media, I would have done a lot of things differently. The character I created on the field was a different person than the way I was off the field. It was that person that made me perform. It gave me the push to perform. Whether you hated me or loved me, you came to see that person or that show. And with the media, I needed space. When the first thing that happens after you get to the clubhouse every day is questions about the chase or how you feel, I'll admit it now that it was hard for me to deal with and I could've done it a lot better. That's a lot for one individual. You're going to snap. It's hard when you have to do that every day for 162 days. Add Spring Training. It would be tough for anyone. MLB.com: Because of knee injuries, it also stretched out for almost four seasons after you passed Willie at 660 early in 2004. That was a long haul. Had it been a little more condensed, wouldn't it have been a bit easier? Bonds: I agree with that, but I could've given the media a little more than I did at the time. Back then, I didn't think I could. But I also feel that the people around me could have given me some breathing room to make it easier. When you're just shoved out there by yourself all the time, I believe some people can do it. I was just not one of them. And I admit it, I wasn't one of them. I wasn't good at that. I wasn't good for the sole reason of the things I saw as I grew up with my father. And how my father and Willie were loved at one moment and then dropped off at some corner and told, "Good luck!" the next. I wasn't willing to subject myself to that and I wasn't willing to give them that. Now that I look back at it, it might have been a lot more fun if I had. It might have been good to do that. MLB.com: Well, you also had a lot of things going on off the field, too. There were family issues. There were the BALCO legal proceedings. Bonds: I think it's overwhelming for one person to handle. And I always kept going with what my dad and Willie said. "Regardless of the problems you have off the field, son, those problems are still going to be there when the games are over. And if you can't handle your job, you're not only not going to have a job, but those problems are still going to be there." I was able to stay focused on my job because I knew the things I was dealing with and those things were going to be there anyway. And I had to deal with all that and perform. It was a lot for one person to have to deal with. I didn't think it was fair at all. I will never say it was fair. Never. MLB.com: Do you think it was fair the way your career ended? Bonds: No, I don't think my career should have ended that way. I will never agree with that at all. But at the same token, I had a great 22 years. Would I have liked things to have been different? Sure, I would have loved them to be different. On one side of it, I'm disappointed. I should have been able to play one more year. That's all I wanted. Play the one more year in San Francisco. I knew one more year would have been it for me. That's what I wanted to do. It didn't work out that way. I have no animosity toward anyone. I'm very grateful. This is my hometown. I have family here. I don't have fans, these people are my family and I love them to death. I played for them and performed for them. I was lucky. My father performed for them. My godfather performed for them. For me to be the final link in that legacy is something I'm very proud of. What more could I ask for? When I was a boy, I wanted to play in the same uniform as my godfather. I wanted to be the left fielder. Willie played center, my father played right, and I wanted to be the left fielder. And I got to fulfill that. So, hey, you know what? In the end, I win. I got to do the things I wanted to do. I feel grateful and I loved it. MLB.com: The Hall of Fame vote is coming up with you on the ballot for the first time. How do you feel about that? Bonds: I respect the Hall of Fame, don't get me wrong. I really, really, really respect the Hall of Fame. And I think we all do. I love the city of San Francisco and to me that's my Hall of Fame. I don't worry about it because I don't want to be negative about the way other people think it should be run. That's their opinion, and I'm not going to be negative. I know I'm going to be gone one day. If you want to keep me out, that's your business. My things are here in San Francisco. These are the people who love me. This is where I feel I belong. This is where I want to belong. If [the voters] want to put me in there, so be it, fine. If they don't, so be it, fine. MLB.com: Do you feel you belong in the Hall? Bonds: Oh, without a doubt. There's not a doubt in my mind. MLB.com: How do you think the writers are going to handle you and the players of your era who are [linked] to performance-enhancing drugs? Bonds: You have to vote on baseball the way baseball needs to be voted on. If you vote on your assumptions or what you believe or what you think might have been going on there, that's your problem. You're at fault. It has nothing to do with what your opinion is. Period. If that's the case, you better go way, way back and start thinking about your opinions. If that's how you feel life should be run, I would say then you run your Hall of Fame the way you want to run your Hall of Fame. That's what I think. That's my personal opinion. If you want to do the Hall of Fame the way the Hall of Fame is supposed to be done, then you make the right decision on that. If you don't, that's on you. To stamp something on your assumptions, it doesn't work for me. MLB.com: What are your thoughts on how the Clemens trial wound up? Bonds: I was overwhelmed with happiness for Roger. Very happy. Roger is a great athlete and a great pitcher. I think Roger Clemens is telling the truth, and I don't care what anyone else thinks. He's acquitted. Now everyone leave him alone, let him be. He went through the system just as I did and he deserves respect and forgiveness and move on. We have sacrificed our lives and bodies for this game. We have beat our bodies up for something that we love to do. OK? They accused him. They accuse whoever. Who cares? He was acquitted. He deserves the same rights everyone else does. And he deserves the same respect he's always had. I love him. He was one of the greatest pitchers I've ever faced. He's always been a good friend of mine. I will go to the end of the earth for that man. MLB.com: And what about your legal situation? Bonds: Mine is on appeal for obstruction of justice. So what? I have to say I'm a felon of obstruction of justice because that is my title. That is it and hopefully (the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals) will see the light and overturn it. And if they don't, I will accept what my punishment was and will have to move on. But I would like for those same people to respect me in the same fashion. I went through that system just like a lot of people have done. I fought for what I thought was right. I got a conviction for obstruction of justice. What that means, I don't understand it. But it is what it is. I accept it. And that's the end of it. MLB.com: You talked to the Giants about possibly coming back as a coach. What do you envision your role might be for the organization? Bonds: I'd just like to do what I'm trained to do, and that's teach players how to hit. I'm an expert at it. I am one of the best experts you will ever find in this game, and I would love to teach professionals about something I'm an expert at doing. I'm not a computer person. I'm trained to do what I do and that's what I deserve to do. MLB.com: You don't want to coach on a day-to-day basis do you? Bonds: No, I don't want to do that. I don't want to be on the bus every day. I don't mind doing it once in a while. I don't mind going sometimes, but I don't want to go on the day-to-day grind. My mind could change when I start doing something. Maybe the guys might need me more out there. It's going to be based on how it is. I'm not begging for a job. If they don't like what I'm doing then get rid of me. I'm just saying that it would be a shame for what I know, to what I can give, to what I can offer, to let it go to waste or for me to get too old so I can't offer it anymore. MLB.com: Where do the Giants stand in all this? Bonds: We all basically agree on what we want to do. When you're behind closed doors communicating you want to keep things private and personal. To me, that's a good code of ethics. But we both have a good feeling about things. That's where it stands. Now where it goes? We could've had a good feeling at dinner and that's as far as it went. So there's no timeline. I just want to get back involved as soon as I can. I just want to help before it's too late. I can still hit. I can still show and tell. But that's the way I am. My dad was like that. Willie was like that. I'm hands on. If I can grab a bat at 48 years old and still do it, than son, you better not tell me you can't do it at 22 years old. If that's the Giants' choice not to hire me, it's OK. I'll still love them just the same.
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.