SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The black San Francisco Giants T-shirt that Barry Bonds wore was so new, the fold lines from being wrapped in plastic were easy to spot.
Still, it seemed a natural fit for Bonds, the former slugger who donned a Giants uniform for his first day of work in his new role with the club, a hitting instructor and special adviser to CEO Larry Baer.
The job began Wednesday with a week in Arizona working with major league hitting coach Hensley Meulens and the minor leaguers at spring training. Then Bonds will become an ambassador of sorts for the Giants, representing the team at various community and club events.
“Any role that they want, that’s what I’ll do,” Bonds said. “All I’ve ever wanted to be is a Giant.”
Bonds spent last season as Miami’s hitting coach before being fired, and thanked the Marlins for the opportunity.
The 52-year-old Bonds looked relaxed and had plenty to smile about in talking about reuniting with the Giants, the team with which he set baseball’s all-time home run record and won five of his record seven NL Most Valuable Player awards.
Bonds said he wished his father was there to see his return to the Giants — Bobby Bonds died in 2003. He also was hoping to cross paths with his famous godfather, Giants great Willie Mays.
“I want to help our community, our team, San Francisco, the Giants, the younger players, keep the tradition alive,” Bonds said. “Same thing my godfather’s done, my father’s done ... it’s the right thing to do. I’m from San Francisco, raised there, and I want to help out our community kids become Giants, and good ones.”
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is to make my godfather and my dad proud of me,” he said.
Bonds drew loud applause as he walked onto the field toward the visitors’ dugout at Maryvale Baseball Park before the Giants faced the Milwaukee Brewers in an exhibition game.
He stopped to sign a few autographs as fans clogged the stairway leading to the field to catch a glimpse or get a signature.
Bonds hit 762 home runs in his 22-year big league career, 15 of those seasons with his hometown team, the Giants. He was a 14-time All-Star whose last game was in 2007.
Bonds joked about the small gathering of reporters around him, recalling when hordes of media types would surround him in his playing days. He won’t have an office at AT&T Park, saying his office is only four blocks away in his city center penthouse.
To get around, Bonds said he often rides his bike in San Francisco and is frequently greeted warmly by those who spot him. He called the Giants and the city his family and said that as long as the people of the city are with him, then the Giants go hand in hand with that sentiment.
“The timing’s just right. Sometimes you need to get away from the game as a player and just regroup on everything, think about all that’s gone on, what’s gone on around you, and you need time to mature yourself and realize what’s best for you,” Bonds said. “I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Bonds is getting more support for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as seen in the most recent voting numbers, and his return to the Giants would indicate the pathway is paved to get his number 25 retired. He is expected to be added to the Giants’ Wall of Fame in a ceremony this season.
In July 2015, federal prosecutors dropped what was left of their criminal case against Bonds after a nearly decade-long steroids prosecution, another factor that presumably led to Bonds’ return to the club in his new capacity.
“I thought I had a great career. There’s a lot of great memories that at one point in time, I’ll be able to tell it all, but right now, that’s in the past. I just see things differently,” Bonds said. “I more want to help out and do things like that.”
“Now it’s time for us to bring along this generation, so they can have the same feeling we had throughout our career,” he said. “That’s pretty much what I want to do, is see the (Buster) Poseys and (Joe) Paniks and (Hunter) Pences and them, and they get to retire like I do and ride their bikes or scooters around and have the whole city of San Francisco say, ‘Hey man, it was great watching you throughout your career.’”