Barry Bonds is back in Major League Baseball as hitting coach for the Marlins under new manager Don Mattingly. The all-time leader with 762 home runs played the final 15 years of his 22-year career for the Giants, ending in 2007.
He said his return is dedicated to his late father, Bobby Bonds, and his godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays. But the genesis of this belongs to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
"The opportunity just presented itself," Bonds said recently in a phone interview from his home in San Francisco. "[Loria] came to me. He wanted me. He asked me what it would take because, 'We thought you would work good with our kids.'"
Bonds will take his bats, his expertise and his new love of open-road speed cycling with him to Miami.
MLB.com: So that's how this job came about? Loria called you months ago?
Bonds: It was something I had no intention of doing, but he asked me to think about it. And then I started thinking about my dad and everything he taught me. I started thinking about [manager] Jim Leyland and 1986 with the Pirates. We had all these kids sprinkled with a few veterans. [Loria] said he wanted to win, but he wants to put together a good team first, good coaches, so he could put together a championship.
MLB.com: Then Loria hired Don Mattingly as his new manager.
Bonds: Donnie called and said he had followed my career and wanted me to be a part of his staff. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for working with Dexter [Fowler], [Alex Rodriguez] and my little summer camp. I needed to give back. I'm 51 years old and I'm not getting any younger. So Donnie said, "I really want you, Barry." And that was it. I told him I'd do it.
MLB.com: How well do you know Mattingly?
Bonds: Only from the other side of the field. I mean, just from my playing days. He's a nice guy. Really mellow. It helps that I know so many of the coaches. [Bench coach] Timmy Wallach I've known forever. A lot of guys I've either played with or against, had dinner with, had some laughs with. That makes it a lot easier.
MLB.com: Why the change of heart?
Bonds: I need to try this. I'll never know if I like it unless I try. Baseball, that's my thing, that's who I am. With everything I've done as a hitter, I'm the best at that. I wouldn't have been able to do it unless the opportunity came up. So I figured, if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it the way my dad would have done it. I've got to be in the trenches with them.
I could come in for a day or two and give them tips and things, but what happens when a guy really loses it and you're not there? See what I mean? So I kind of want to honor my dad for what he did. Honor my godfather [Mays] for what he did.
MLB.com: Only recently you said you didn't want to do something full-time like this.
Bonds: I didn't ever think this was something I wanted to do. You know me, when [Loria] asked me, it was like I wanted to click on the phone and say, "Hello? Are you serious?" But Jeffrey Loria was very kind about it. He told me, "Barry, when you think about it, you have so much to give the game, you have so much to offer to baseball, and you can teach these kids."
The more I talked to my mom about it, the more she encouraged me. I told her, "I don't know if I want to go back and do it every day." She said, "Why not? You may hate it, but if you don't try you'll never know. You might love it and you might be one of the best teachers who ever lived. You don't know unless you get in the box and find out."
Yeah, I'm going to have some struggles, being back in the bus every day, riding everywhere. I haven't done that in a long time. I haven't lived out of a suitcase for a long time. But it is what it is.
MLB.com: You're excited?
MLB.com: Kind of odd that it wasn't the Giants who were the team to do this, isn't it?
Bonds: That opportunity never presented itself. Like I said in my press conference, I'd have loved to have stayed in San Francisco. That has never changed. My family has been entertaining this town forever. But the opportunity never presented itself, not in the sense of being a hitting coach, I wasn't trying to be a hitting coach there. That wasn't the thing. There just was never any conversation. No one ever called me. It was just every year, "Hey, let's do something." And that was it. But there was never an initiation, never a phone call, you know? Like I said, this is the only thing that came to me.
MLB.com: It's always nice to be wanted.
Bonds: That's why I say [the job with the Marlins] was the only opportunity that presented itself. And that's the truth. I think the people will read between the lines, I mean. Everyone knows that I love San Francisco. I would never deny that. This is my home. This is my first love. This is the job opportunity that came to me. And this was the only one. And I took it.
MLB.com: Is it a one-year contract or more?
Bonds: It's just the one year, just a one-year deal. You know how I am. I'll work for the rest of it. If I like it then I'll stay, and if I don't I won't stay. If I feel like I do a good job and we're all good and everything plays out the way it's supposed to then I'll continue on. I'd like my work to do the talking.
MLB.com: Well, you have Giancarlo Stanton there, you have Ichiro there going for his 3,000th hit. It's an interesting team.
Bonds: Yeah, it's going to be good. There are also a lot of young guys who are going to try to put it together. They're not ready to win yet. It would be easy to go into a situation and win, but you never know, they could do better than people think. Their pitching staff is what they have to work on. They have to put some pieces of the puzzle together, but what Jeffrey wanted to do was put a good coaching staff out there and see where he'd have to make changes with his players and what he needs to do to improve. But first of all he needs to develop a good respect between everyone and the coaches. That's understandable.
MLB.com: So it sounds like you're ready for it.
Bonds: I'm going to try it out. Give it my best shot. I'll see. By about July I might [no longer want to do it]. Who knows? I'll bring my bike with me [to Spring Training]. I'll put the word out for any group rides so people can let me know. Hopping on a plane, getting in at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, I don't know how I'm going to cope with stuff like that. I'm an early riser anyway and I go to bed early. Me being to work at 8 o'clock in the morning, I don't give a darn about that. But that hotel stuff every single day?
I like challenges. I don't like the easy way out. You get in there and you stick it out. You have your good times and your bad times. There are going to be ups and downs. A roller coaster. This is an endurance sport right now even though this is a lazy sport. The players have zero endurance. It's a long season. It's 162 games, plus Spring Training. Can we blend it together? Can we make it happen?
This is not for me, it's for them. I'm not going to be in the press. That's not my thing. That's Don Mattingly's thing. My job is hitting, and I'm going to stay in my box. I'm not coming out of my box for anything. I'm not going to do anything else. Running, hitting, outfield. I'm probably the best at all of those things there. I think Ichiro might have more hits than me. But other than that, I'm not coming out of my box for anything. I think it's a good thing. I think what I'm doing is a good thing. Right now, I'm just so happy about being back.