Bonds cheered in return to his Giants family

April 11th, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO -- It had been a decade since Barry Bonds was introduced to a sellout crowd at AT&T Park as an official member of the Giants, but that ended midway through the fifth inning of Monday's 4-1 win over the D-backs.

On a crystal clear day by the bay, a perfect day for the home opener, the Giants spun together some choice No. 25 video power clips on the big board and introduced Bonds as "the newest member of the Giants family."

Bonds, dressed in a charcoal-grey suit commiserate with his new role as assistant to club president Larry Baer, stood and waved from the owner's box as the 42,129 assembled gave him a long standing ovation, chanting his name in unison.

In his heart, Bonds said he never left.

"It felt good, it was awesome, I love these people," said the all-time Major League leader with 762 homers. "I'm from San Francisco. We all grew up together."

Bonds, now 52, was accompanied by family. His mother, Pat, daughters Ashia and Shikari, and son, Nikolai.

Pat goes a long way back with the Giants. Her husband, Bobby, played for them from 1968-74 when Barry was just a little guy befriended by Willie Mays, now his godfather. Bobby, a five-tool player, who had 186 homers and 263 stolen bases for the Giants, died of cancer in 2003. He was the team's hitting coach under manager Dusty Baker when Barry signed as a free agent in 1993.

Pat watched the fifth-inning introduction on television in the family room outside the Giants' third-base-side clubhouse, and she proclaimed the universe back in alignment.

"It's just been too long," she said. "I'm glad he's back in the Giants' organization. It's the way it should be. We've always been family."

Those who were around as Bonds chased Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron for the all-time home run record remember Nikolai as the kid who accompanied his dad on the field in uniform, being hoisted aloft in his arms upon touching home plate after each of those landmark blasts.

Nikolai was a teenager then. He's 27 now.

"That was an incredible time," he said. "I'll never forget it."

There was the BALCO drug investigation and baseball's steroid revelations.

All of that led to Bonds' playing career being curtailed prematurely after the 2007 season. All of that led to Bonds thus far being kept out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame by eligible voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America. In his fifth year on the ballot, Bonds ascended this year to a high of 53.8 percent. He needs 75 percent and has five years of eligibility left.

Hard to believe that we're quickly rolling toward the 10-year anniversary of Bonds hitting his 755th homer to break Aaron's record. It happened right here on Aug. 7, 2007. With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning against Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsik, Bonds launched it into the bleachers just to the right of center, a spot where so many of his signature home runs landed.

Little more than two months later, Bonds was gone forever as a player and until recently as a Giant.

"It's a long time ago," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who took over the team in 2007. "These years are going by, aren't they?"

Since then, the Giants have won the World Series three times and are in position this season to contend for another. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated an obstruction of justice guilty ruling against Bonds in the BALCO case, freeing him again to pursue opportunities in Major League Baseball.

And Bonds spent last season at the invitation of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria as hitting coach of the Miami Marlins. All that paved the way for Bonds' return to the Giants.

"It wasn't my choice, but I'm thrilled to be back. I hope people understand that. It wasn't my choice," said Bonds, who was born in Riverside, Calif., but grew up in San Carlos south of old Candlestick Park when his dad played for the Giants. "This is my hometown. I run into people. They went to my high school, my middle school. I never left."

Two things are certain about his new role: The Giants will retire Bonds' No. 25, placing it in mothballs for all of eternity next his godfather's famous No. 24. And a statue of Bonds taking his famous left-handed swing will be placed on the grounds outside the ballpark, joining Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Hall of Famers, all of them.

Bonds, though, doesn't have defined duties yet.

"He's going to help out whether it's in the Minor Leagues or whether he joins us like he did in Spring Training," Bochy said. "He'll help out with his expertise in baseball. He has a great mind. I'm hoping that he can make us a better organization with his experience.

"When we were together this spring, he went with us to Maryvale and we talked about it. He told me that he's glad to be back on board, helping out the Giants. He's glad to be back in the Giants family. He's a Giant through and through. This is a good thing for us. And a good thing for him."