Welcome back, Barry
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The last time Giants fans saw Barry Bonds, he was coasting by AT&T Park at FanFest on his bicycle and stopping to sign autographs.
Bonds is going to have his own parking space now.
It was contentious. It took years to negotiate. But the Giants and Bonds finally reached agreement on a front office position with a multiyear arrangement – a formal reestablishment of ties that is expected to pave the way for greater recognition between baseball’s all-time home run leader and the team that he lifted out of obscurity into one of the game’s preeminent franchises.
Someday soon, perhaps Bonds will pedal past a bronzed version of himself.
There’s the statue. Retiring his No.25. First up: A spot on the club’s Wall of Fame, for which Bonds is massively overqualified.
“We don’t want to do everything in 2017, obviously,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said. “The Wall of Fame is definitely in order. And down the line, we’ll plan for other things. It’s not like this is a one-year deal to see how this goes. It’ll be for a long time.
“I mean, he’s coming home.”
Bonds’ title is special advisor to the CEO, which will include a blend of coaching, marketing and ambassadorial duties. The seven-time National League MVP will arrive at the club’s spring training home in Arizona on Tuesday to begin a weeklong stint as a special instructor.
Bonds also will spend time as a coach and mentor in minor league camp. During the season, he will serve as a major asset to the club’s marketing, community relations and promotions departments. In a news release, the Giants said that Bonds would “represent the organization at various community and organizational events in San Francisco.”
It’s a role that the Giants long wanted to establish with Bonds, but negotiations were contentious ever since former CEO Peter Magowan declined to re-sign him after the 2007 season.
Bonds appeared as a special spring instructor for a week in 2014, and by all accounts, his visit was well received in camp. But he did not reprise his role the following spring, for reasons the team would not disclose.
Bonds spent last season as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins; he was not retained.
Baer said the best part of reuniting with Bonds would be to see him interact with young players in the system. The team is blessed with a rich history and has Willie Mays, Will Clark, Orlando Cepeda and many others speak in minor league camp. But for younger generations, Bonds is unmatched in his ability to inspire awe.
“When we started getting involved with Willie in 1993, you saw what a big deal it was just to have him in the clubhouse,” Baer said. “So one of the things I love is that the players today, the ones we’re drafting, were inspired by Barry. They were blown away by what he did on the baseball field.
“And the other part is for our fans, who want to interact with the guy who created so many memories for them in a Giants uniform.”
Bonds, 52, was born into the Giants franchise. His father, Bobby, was a star outfielder and one of the most talented players in the 1970s. Mays was his godfather. He grew up in San Carlos and starred at Serra High School in San Mateo.
When he signed his record-setting contract with the Giants’ brand new ownership group prior to the 1993 season, fresh off his third NL MVP award with the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was the turning point that eventually elevated a moribund franchise out of chilly Candlestick Park and into their jewel box home on the edge of McCovey Cove.
Baer would not disclose terms of the club’s agreement with Bonds, except to say it was a multiyear arrangement and not related to the 10-year personal services contract that had been negotiated as part of the $90 million extension he signed as a player in 2001. That personal services deal called for an annual salary of $1 million payable to the Bonds Family Foundation, but it never came into force and was intentionally vague in its language.
The Giants kept Bonds in a holding pattern while he was under federal prosecution for his role in the Balco case, and then in subsequent years while he was appealing a conviction for obstruction of justice. Bonds won his appeal in April, 2015, when a federal court overturned his felony conviction and federal prosecutors declined to litigate further.
For many people, Bonds will persist as the overriding symbol of baseball’s pernicious steroids era. But attitudes among others have softened a bit with the passage of time since the height of baseball’s steroid era. Over the past three Hall of Fame election cycles, Bonds has built from 36.8 to 44.3 to 53.8 percent – a significant amount of traction, even if he doesn’t reach the 75 percent required for enshrinement in his final five tries.
The Giants have not reissued Bonds’ No.25 since his final season with the club, and their consistent policy is to retire only the numbers of Hall of Fame players. Could they break that policy for Bonds?
“Could be,” Baer said. “That’s a discussion we’ll be having.”