Bonds channels Abdul for 'Giants Idol'

Bonds channels Abdul

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- How loose are the Giants this spring? Laughingly loose. Hysterically, we're-not-sweating-things loose.

There's already a sense of better teammate chemistry in the clubhouse than in the two previous camps, with smiles and good-natured ribbing common, but it reached a zany zenith Tuesday.

That's when resident funnyman Mark Sweeney set up a "Giants Idol" talent show for charity, featuring judges Barry Bonds as burnished-blonde bombshell Paula Abdul, Ray Durham as Randy "Wassup, Dawg?" Jackson and Jeff Fassero emulating the barb-throwing Simon Cowell.

The second round will start 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, and fans are invited to the ballpark for the show. Donations from spectators will be matched by Giants players, with the money going to charity. An instrasquad game will be played later.

No question, Bonds was the star of the show.

The big man sauntered out of the dugout and onto the judges' chairs with style, wearing a black dress and wig, cooing "call me" after one player's song ended, cracking up the assembled audience of Giants players, along with fans.

The segment will be part of Bonds' scheduled reality show on ESPN, and comedian and Giants fan Rob Schneider also joined in, promoting his upcoming movie "Benchwarmers" -- to be released April 7 -- while videotaping a special ESPN baseball show, coming April 2.

"I won't tell my wife to hurry up now," laughed Bonds about squeezing himself into his, uh, dress. "I'll never do that again. The tape was killing me, and I couldn't get my hair right. I put on glasses -- there were a lot of things I went through in 30 minutes to get that wig on. I was holding everybody up.

"It was cool," said Bonds. "It was a lot of fun."

Bonds joked there was no lipstick available, but he did have a bracelet and chain, which sparkled in the morning sun. "I don't wear jewelry anymore ... that brought me back in time ... wearing all that stupid gold."

Bonds said he's longtime friends with Abdul.

Players entering their first Giants Spring Training camp were the performers, and they ranged from pitcher Brian Wilson imitating Billy Idol, complete with spiky hair, Billy Sadler twanging his guitar with a country ballad and decent voice to wild-man pitcher Joe Bateman in an over-the-top Metallica version of "Enter Sandman."

Bateman was electrified, even if his guitar was made of cardboard.

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The right-handed pitcher, who had 21 saves for Class A San Jose last year, made a spectacular leap from atop the Giants dugout -- the "Idol" stage -- to the warning track with his fake long hair flying, drawing concern from the training staff.

But Bateman landed safely.

"Dawg," chastised Durham in jest, "whatever you're on, get off it."

The festivities brought back memories for Bonds when he was a rookie with Pittsburgh in 1986, and he thought his young Giants teammates -- most of whom will be in the Minor Leagues this year -- had a wonderful time.

"The guys were good," said Bonds. "I think it was good that it happened in Spring Training. They did a great job and it was fun. I was disappointed we didn't have a sellout crowd, but maybe tomorrow."

Upbeat atmosphere: There is something different in the Giants' camp air, fun being a dramatic change from last season.

Finishing third in the National League West with a below-.500 record wasn't enjoyable for the team last season, but with well-known talkers and upbeat guys like Sweeney and Steve Kline on the roster this time, and Bonds feeling healthier and happier, the mood has been buoyed.

"It's like two different teams as far as guys getting along and talking to each other," said Omar Vizquel, who acted the part of "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest on Tuesday. "I see more smiles on people's faces -- they're enjoying each other."

Vizquel says Giants players are doing more together this spring, going out to dinner, riding go-karts. Definitely more togetherness.

Catcher Mike Matheny says playing well on the field is what ultimately counts, but he loves seeing players flocking to other groups instead of their immediate friends, the cliques beginning to fade.

"Things like they were doing this morning brings the team together," said Matheny. "You have to be motivated, but it's a more enjoyable place to be now, instead of just grinding.

"I hate to bring up last year, but if you don't learn from your mistakes or bad situations you're not going to better yourself," said the veteran of a dozen Major League camps. "Last year was a bad situation because we didn't have that chemistry to pull you together -- people were going into their shells."

Intrasquad contest: The Giants' younger players will play at Scottsdale Stadium around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, with Jonathan Sanchez, Sadler, Bateman, Jesus Reina, Justin Hedrick and Jon Coutlangus expected to pitch.

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.