MIAMI -- The Barry Bonds batting coach era began with the Marlins on Saturday as the former left-handed power hitter met with the media for the first time as the club's hitting coach.
Seated to the left of new manager Don Mattingly, Bonds answered questions about his new role for about 15 minutes.
Bonds, 51, said he can't play anymore, "but yeah, I can still hit, yes." And that's what he hopes to teach the Marlins. The initial reaction of the players has been very positive. They'll get a chance to tap the knowledge of Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 762 homers -- a record 73 of them during the 2001 season.
"I take that as a compliment, and it's great to be in the position I'm in," Bonds said on the occasion of the club's annual FanFest at Marlins Park. "I work a little bit differently. We're going to do this together in a way where it functionally works for you. You're the one who has to perform.
"I'm glad they are excited. I hope they don't think they know more than me, because they don't. But I will listen to them."
With that, Bonds broke into a raucous laugh. Right now, it's good feelings all the way around. For Bonds, it has been nine years since he was last in uniform for his beloved hometown Giants, save from a week two springs ago when the Giants brought him into camp as a guest instructor.
Of Miami's projected starting eight offensive players, only Martin Prado was in the National League for a handful of games during Bonds' final two seasons. Ichiro Suzuki, at 42 and the fourth outfielder, is basically untouchable, Bonds said. Ichiro signed with the Mariners in 2001 and joined the Marlins last season. He and Bonds are deadlocked right now at 2,945 hits. The difference is Ichiro is actively eyeing 65 more hits this season to reach the 3,000 plateau.
"All I need to say to Ichiro is: 'What massage would you like to do? What workout do you like to do? And let's hurry up and get those hits so we can celebrate,'" Bonds said. "What do you want me to say to him? He's one of the best hitters in the game today."
In contrast, Giancarlo Stanton was picked by Miami in the second round of the 2007 Draft and signed later that summer as Bonds' career ended. But Stanton didn't ascend to the Majors until 2010.
Bonds said he was well aware of Stanton, who grew up in the Los Angeles area at the same time Bonds was a Beverly Hills resident. Stanton played his prep ball at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Stanton was certainly well aware of Bonds. And now he's looking forward to sharing that expertise.
"Just his mental knowledge, that's what I'm looking forward to," said the righty-swinging Stanton, who has hit 188 homers in his six big league seasons. "Our physical abilities are similar in ways, even though I hit on the other side of the box. But on the mental side, on the approach side, that's where he can really help me step it up."
Bonds was wooed by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria this past offseason. Loria called him out of the blue and asked if he was interested in the job of hitting coach. Miami had yet to sign Mattingly, and Bonds was at best dubious.
"I didn't ever think this was something I wanted to do," Bonds said at the time. "You know me, when [Loria] asked me, it was like I wanted to click on the phone and say, 'Hello? Are you serious?'"
Bonds promised Loria he would think about it, and the concept grew into reality from there.
"Jeffrey just thought it would be a good thing to talk to Barry about being a hitting coach. He didn't know how it would end from there," said team president David Samson. "And Jeffrey called me to say, 'Hey, he's interested.'"
Mattingly left the Dodgers by mutual consent this past October. He then survived an arduous interview process and became the seventh Marlins manager since Fredi Gonzalez was dismissed 70 games into the 2010 season.
Mattingly then called Bonds to tell him he was wanted as a member of his coaching staff. But there was one caveat.
"I never had any doubt when Jeffrey brought it up that Barry could do it," Mattingly said. "You don't have that mind and that ability to not know a ton about hitting. But you have to want to be coaching, you have to want to be in the cage, you have to want to study video. And those are all the areas Barry's excited about. I've been a hitting coach [for the Yankees], and I know the time it takes. I've been there."
The conversation prompted a meeting in New York that included Loria, Samson and Mattingly. Bonds cinched it, putting together two of the greatest hitters ever in their respective leagues.
"Yeah, between me and Barry, we hit over a thousand homers," Mattingly deadpanned.
Actually 982, but who's counting?
Bonds was asked one question during Saturday's news conference about his Hall of Fame status. Playing under the shadow of the performance-enhancing drug era and his part in it, Bonds amassed 44.3 percent of the vote in the latest Baseball Writers' of America Association ballot, with six years of eligibility remaining.
"I don't really need to get into that; I know I'm a Hall of Fame player," Bonds said. "I'll leave that to you guys to make that determination. That's not my fraternity.
"But in my fraternity, there's not one player who can sit there and say that I'm not one. There's not a coach who ever coached me that said I'm not one. And until you guys decide to make that final decision -- and that final decision will be on your terms -- I know in my heart and soul and God knows that I'm a Hall of Famer."