Barry Bonds all smiles in return

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds put on a San Francisco Giants uniform Monday morning for the first time since his final major league game as a player in 2007. He is noticeably slimmer than in his final seasons as a player -- shedding considerable weight since becoming an avid cyclist -- so the uniform is probably a somewhat smaller size than he previously wore, but he was delighted to wear it again.

At 49, Bonds says he could still hit balls out of the park, but the game's controversial home run king is not here to do that. He is here to work for the next seven days as a roving instructor for the Giants and manager Bruce Bochy. Bonds expressed interest in working beyond that in some role but needs to see how things go first.

"I'm more nervous at this than when I was playing, because as a player, it was only my mind, me," Bonds said, addressing several dozen reporters. "Now I'm trying to put that [knowledge] into other players' minds. I'm a little more nervous being on this side than that side. Hopefully I can just bring some good value to the ballclub. Hopefully, I can bring value to these guys and then let Bochy see how I do.

"I would rather let them evaluate me, and then hopefully something good can come out of this."

Bonds said the idea of working as an instructor came up at a recent charity event and that it was a good time to get back in the game.

"The timing was right on both sides," Bochy said. "That's why it's happening now. We welcome all former players. If you look at our camp, Jeff Kent just left. J.T. Snow is here. Rich Aurilia is here. Randy Winn is here. Will Clark is coming in. And we're excited about Barry being here to help out in so many different aspects of the game. Not just hitting. This guy was a tremendous baserunner and outfielder.

"I think it's going to be good for both sides. Good for Barry to see how this will work for him and good for the players to work with one of the great minds in baseball."

When Mark McGwire returned as a hitting coach with the St. Louis Cardinals several years ago, he admitted that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds was not so forthcoming.

"I already went to court, and that's where I'll leave it," he said when confronted on the subject. "And I think anything outside that doesn't need to be commented on."

Bonds also didn't elaborate much when asked whether he thought this instructional role might help rehabilitate his image and help with his chances with Hall of Fame voters.

"I think you guys are all adults," he said. "I have no advice for you."

He did, however, say there is no doubt he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

In his final season, Bonds hit 28 home runs, broke Hank Aaron's career homer record and finished with a 1.045 OPS yet never received an offer to play again. Asked whether he had been blackballed or had any regrets about the way his playing career ended, Bonds said that was in the past and he is looking to the future. He said his only regret was that he didn't have a better relationship with the media.

Indeed, Bonds was all smiles and friendly during the news conference, much different than his occasionally standoffish, sometimes surly persona as a player.

"I was different character playing," he said. "Now I've had to slow down and do different things. I think we all do. I think when you've been gone awhile you have time to reflect on things. But I needed 'that guy' to play. I needed him. It was who I was at the time. It was not who I am in my day-to-day life.

"I'm the same person but a different character. I was like this guy over here who is crazy and this guy over here who is not. I'm more in the middle. I can still be crazy, but I'm a lot calmer now."

Bonds said that however players look at him, even if they are intimidated, they will be able to connect when they work one-on-one.

Asked whether he might learn as much about coaching from them as they will learn about playing from him, Bonds replied, "I have to learn [about] them. But that will never take me more than a minute. All you have to do is go into a batting cage and I'll tell you everything that's going on. Very fast."

How much can one of the greatest, albeit controversial, players in baseball history help the Giants?

"I think they did pretty good without me," Bonds said. "They won two World Series championships. I don't know if I can help. I know I can do one thing: I can help you do a little better than you already are. But I don't know how much I can do. But I will have time to find out."

Bonds said he had no bittersweet or jealous feelings when the Giants won the World Series championship that always eluded him.

"I'm not jealous. I'm happy," he said. "This is my town. It's my city. It's my family. I'm happy. I was almost in tears when they won, I was that happy. It was something we had wanted for a long time. ... I've always been a Giant."

And now he is wearing the uniform again, though he is unsure if he will don it again after this week.

"I just want to get through seven days and see if I can do that," Bonds said. "I've got to get through these seven days first. I don't know if I'm even good enough."

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