- Pedro Gomez, MLB
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There are times Barry Bonds, without provocation, opens the window to his soul and allows a visitor a rare glimpse into what makes baseball's most dangerous player tick.
For whatever reason, Bonds was in one of those moods Thursday at Scottsdale Stadium, the spring training home of his club of 13 years, the San Francisco Giants.
With his godfather, Willie Mays, less than 10 feet away, one of his trainers and a Giants public relations manager standing across from him, his personal security guard in the seat next to him, Bonds began engaging and lecturing a pair of reporters for over 30 minutes.
Within the first few minutes of the exchange, Bonds had everyone in the small gathering engaged in a wide-ranging chat inside the nearly empty clubhouse while his teammates bused over to Tempe to take on the Los Angeles Angels in their first Cactus League game of the new season.
Much like his highly publicized news conference from the week before, Bonds touched on a variety of subjects. This time, though, while never using the word steroids directly and speaking in general terms, Bonds seemed to acknowledge that its existence was prevalent.
"You're talking about something that wasn't even illegal at the time,'' Bonds said. "All this stuff about supplements, protein shakes, whatever. Man, it's not like this is the Olympics. We don't train four years for, like, a 10-second (event). We go 162 games. You've got to come back day after day after day. We're entertainers. If I can't go out there and somebody pays $60 for a ticket, and I'm not in the lineup, who's getting cheated? Not me. There are far worse things like cocaine, heroin and those types of things.
"So we all make mistakes. We all do things. We need to turn the page. We need to forget about the past and let us play the game. We're entertainers. Let us entertain."
On the subject of cheating, Bonds had this to say:
"You want to define cheating in America? When they make a shirt in Korea for a $1.50 and sell it here for 500 bucks? And you ask me what cheating means? I'll tell you how I cheat. I cheat because I'm my daddy's son. He taught me the game. He taught me things nobody else knows. So that's how I cheat. I'm my daddy's son."
Bonds said he was equally disgusted by what he says is exploitation of young steroid users in news reports. At the same time, he said he would reign down with fury if his teenaged son, Nikolai, ever experimented with steroids.
"It busts me up when they show some teenager who's been on steroids and his life is suddenly messed up,'' Bonds said. "It's the parents job to be a parent to that kid. It's like when my son says to me, 'aren't you my friend?' Hell no, I'm not your friend. I'll be a friendly dad, but I'm not your best friend. I love you. The system doesn't love you. You think the system is going to do for you what I will? I want what's best for you. I tell my boy, if I see you doing steroids, I'll bust you up. And I mean it. "
One of the points often made to show Bonds may have used some kind of steroid or other performance enhancing substance, is his allegedly enlarging cranium. Without prompting, he willingly addressed that topic with this statement:
"What's all this about my head size?" Bonds asked. "My hat size is the same today as when I started. My head hasn't grown. I've always been a 7-1/4 to a 7-3/8 my whole career. You can go check. Sometimes you get one and you sweat, it gets smaller, so you go a size up or a size down. Those things shrink when you sweat or they get wet during a season.
"I saw a 13-year-old kid on one of the news shows talking about my head size. How do they know? That kid hasn't seen 15 years of my career and he's talking about my head size. That's one of the saddest things, man. That's manipulation. They manipulated that kid."
Bonds even brought up another alleged side affect of using steroids, a reduction in size of genitalia.
"They say it makes your testicles shrink,'' he said. "I can tell you my testicles are the same size. They haven't shrunk. They're the same and work just the same as they always have."
Are some of these statements an admission? Bonds wouldn't say. He simply let his remarks hang there, allowing for whatever interpretation anyone in the group wanted to infer from his words.
And what really gets under Bonds' skin? Well, rude fans, for one. Here's what he had to say about them:
"If you go to a Little League game and hear a parent yelling at your kid about how he stinks. Are you going to sit there and listen to that or do something? Of course you'd do something. We get treated the same way. People are yelling about how horrible we are and how we stink and we can't do anything. You think I want to be up there and strike out with the bases loaded? No one wants that. We all want to succeed. All we do is the same thing a parent tells their kid. We pat the guy and tell him to stay up, that they'll have another chance. We're no different."
So with that much abuse taking place on the field, why does Bonds stay on it? It may be a cliché, but Bonds insists his reason is as simple as his love of the game.
"Money doesn't make me play this game,'' Bonds said. "If it was just money, I would have quit a long time ago. I can sit down and do nothing for the next two years and they still have to pay me. I play this game because I love it. No other reason. You think I'd put up with everything I put up with just for the money? I've got more money than I'll ever need."
Pedro Gomez, who is a bureau reporter for ESPN, covered the Oakland A's from 1990-97 for the San Jose Mercury News and the Sacramento Bee, and was the national baseball writer for the Arizona Republic from 1997-2003.