Bonds hopes BALCO storm blows over

Updated: February 24, 2004, 4:45 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Barry Bonds' offseason was anything but restful. His father died last year, and his trainer has been charged in a federal steroids case.

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.

There's nothing I can do about it right now. I have to go out and play baseball and, hopefully, it will blow over.
Barry Bonds

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 agents.

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."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press