by Ryan Clarke
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It is the rebranding of Barry Bonds.
On Wednesday, baseball’s all-time home run leader told reporters that he doesn’t think baseball has changed since his playing days ended. But he gave the impression that he has.
Bonds was relatively open with media members who gathered around him in a Scottsdale Stadium dugout Wednesday as he discussed rejoining the organization as a special advisor to the CEO, Larry Baer.
He provided the occasional quip if he didn’t like a question or want to answer it. But he made an effort to do so with a smile.
The swaggering, boastful personality hasn’t changed.
“I’m in a different capacity than before,” Bonds said. “When I was playing, it would be whatever role I wanted. Now it’s whatever role they ask me to do — which I kind of like better.”
Bonds previously served as a hitting coach for the Miami Marlins and expressed regret about the way he treated the media over his controversial and historic career. Now, he’ll have the opportunity to return to the organization where his legacy lives.
Building on that legacy and repairing burned bridges will be paramount in whatever role Bonds plays for the Giants.
How much weight his voice will carry in the clubhouse remains to be seen with Hensley Meulens and Steve Decker coaching Giants hitters.
“We have two guys that are incredible hitting coaches,” said right fielder Hunter Pence. “That’s the grunt work, and they put in so much. To have Barry adding on top of that, it’s a good mix.”
Pence said it had been a couple years since he had spoken with Bonds, but he used to stay in contact with him to seek advice.
Bonds will be available even more to Giants players in his new role, if they are willing to listen.
“He’s arguably the greatest hitter,” second baseman Joe Panik said. “Any time you can talk to somebody like him, with his knowledge of the game, it’s going to be great for everyone in this clubhouse.”
As an advisor, Bonds said he plans on working a lot with the Giants’ minor league talent but will also contribute to the major league squad. He’s willing to embrace whatever role he’s given by the club.
“I want to help out the whole organization,” he said. “I want to help the young guys, I want to help the guys that are here — I like this role better to stand with the coaches.”
Wherever he is, Bonds is going to be seen and heard. Whether he’s bicycling through the streets of San Francisco or visiting the rookie league Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Oregon, it’s going to be hard to miss him.
Bonds even injected himself into the analytics debate, saying he “wouldn’t do anything with” the advanced analytics available to today’s players.
“On the field, you have no video, that pitcher isn’t a machine — those players aren’t videos,” Bonds said, pointing to his eyes and ears. “You better start using this and this, because eventually that’s all you have when you step out there.”
Eyes and ears will always be fixed on Bonds, and this is a good time for it from his perspective.
Hall of Fame voters have begun to warm to Bonds. He would love to keep that momentum going, which might explain why he is making what amounts to a public-relations tour, visiting the Giants Wednesday in Scottsdale and taking part in a throwback uniform event at Arizona State’s Phoenix Municipal Stadium next week.
With his name on the Hall of Fame ballot for five more years, Bonds is still swinging for the fences.