Bonds hopes BALCO storm blows over

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For years, Barry Bonds has faced
accusations of steroid use and the assumptions that it's the reason
he keeps hitting home runs even as he pushes 40.

"They can test me every day if they choose to," said Bonds,
who showed up at spring training right around his playing weight of
228 pounds.

A winter without his father beside him in the batting cage
weighed more heavily on Bonds' mind this offseason than his
connection to a lab at the center of an alleged steroid ring.

"It's been difficult," the slugger said Monday, sitting in the
dugout at soggy Scottsdale Stadium. "Just hard all the way around.
I broke down a couple times in the batting cage just due to the
fact he wasn't with me. He's been my coach my whole life."

Bonds was surrounded by reporters on his first day at spring
training, and was asked repeatedly about his ties to the
supplements lab accused of illegally distributing steroids to
dozens of athletes. The six-time National League MVP, who appeared
in December before a grand jury probing the lab, had always denied
using steroids.

After last season, Bonds seriously considered walking away from
baseball for good, unable to imagine playing without his dad.
Bobby, who had been ill for nearly a year with lung cancer and a
brain tumor, died in August at age 57.

But Bonds pushed on, at the urging of his mother, his wife and
godfather Willie Mays.

"I couldn't hit. I didn't want to go in the cage. I didn't want
to swing the bat," Bonds said. "I really didn't want any part of
it for a while."

Now, another important member of Bonds' supporting cast, trainer
Greg Anderson, won't be around.

Anderson was among four men charged this month in an alleged
steroid-distribution ring that federal prosecutors say supplied
professional athletes with banned substances. All the men have
pleaded not guilty and no athletes have been charged.

"I feel bad for him," said Bonds, who turns 40 this summer.
"I feel sad. We grew up together. We're friends. It's unfortunate
what he's having to go through."

About BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative that's at the
center of the federal steroids case, Bonds said: "There's nothing
I can do about it right now. I have to go out and play baseball
and, hopefully, it will blow over. ...

"I believe if I wasn't going for records, it would be a
nullified situation. If you want to be at the top, you've got to
have broad shoulders. ... I know who I am. I know what I stand for.
I know what kind of ballplayer I am."

Bonds spent two stints on the bereavement list in 2003 and,
despite all he was dealing with, still batted .341 with 45 home
runs and 90 RBI.

He's two homers shy of tying Mays for third on the career list
with 660.

When asked if he can pass Hank Aaron's record of 755 homers,
Bonds quickly answered: "I think I can do anything. ... I'm going
for it all."

Mays helped Bonds train the entire offseason, also monitoring
his mental frame of mind.

While the Giants have indicated they will be better about
enforcing a two-year-old directive by the commissioner's office
that limits who can enter the clubhouse, Bonds thinks his other
trainer, Harvey Shields, will still be around. Shields stretches
out Bonds before games.

"That's stretching," Bonds said. "I have to get ready for
games. People have to realize our body is our machine."

According to documents released last week, Anderson told federal
agents he gave steroids to several professional baseball players.
It was unclear whether Anderson provided specific names to the

Manager Felipe Alou is convinced Bonds will deal with everything
just fine.

"He lost his father and he still won the MVP," Alou said.
"Barry Bonds is a baseball player, maybe one of the best baseball
players that ever lived. To be a baseball player of that caliber,
you have to be the complete package."

In nearby Mesa on Monday, Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker,
formerly the Giants' skipper, defended Bonds.

"The only thought I have is that a man's innocent until he's
proven guilty," Baker said.

Bonds seems to have a knack for blocking out the distractions.

"Regardless of what my problems are or what situations are at
hand, they're still going to be there anyway," he said. "Baseball
has been more of a stress release than anything else.

"Baseball has been time away from everything. It's my stage.
It's something that I enjoy to do. I enjoy to do it for the fans, I
enjoy to do it for the game of baseball and myself. I just really
enjoy being on stage."