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New Papa Bonds Reports to Giants

February 27, 1999

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ Barry Bonds had some explaining to do.

No, the San Francisco Giants’ star outfielder wasn’t really late to spring training. No, he didn’t exactly demand a contract extension. Yes, he still wants to play for the team.

Bonds was miffed about all the reports and rumors that swirled around him in the offseason. But his mood was softened by the reason he was a day late for the team’s voluntary reporting day: his new daughter.

``She’s a great baby,″ Bonds said of Aisha Lynn Bonds, born Feb. 5. ``She sleeps well.″

Bonds showed up in camp late Thursday, after the team’s first full-squad workout. But on Friday, the only major league player to hit 400 homers and steal 400 bases was hard at work, with a new, stronger physique and a more amiable attitude.

He insisted he really wasn’t late because the mandatory reporting date for major leaguers is next week.

The Giants were more than willing to cut their star some slack for his tardiness. Manager Dusty Baker was especially sympathetic because he is a new father, too. Darren John Baker was born Feb. 11.

Bonds did show flashes of temper when he refused to talk to a reporter late Thursday, claiming he had been misquoted about his desire for a contract extension. On Friday, he was mostly smiles _ and explanations.

Bonds, an eight-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove and three-time MVP, was quoted earlier this year as saying he wanted the Giants to extend his contract. Two years ago, he signed a $22.9 million extension that pays him $9.7 million this year and $10.7 million in 2000, and gives the Giants a $10.3 million option for 2001 with a $2.5 million buyout.

``The question that was posed to me was `What would be your ideal situation?′ ″ he said. ``My ideal situation would be to retire at home.″

He went on to clarify that it was only natural to want the extension.

``Even if I did want a long-term contract, So?″ he said. ``I don’t see what’s wrong with wanting to stay in my hometown.″

There also was the suggestion that Bonds wouldn’t mind a trade to a World Series contender. A recent report indicated the Atlanta Braves had contacted the Giants about him after Andres Galarraga was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his lower back.

On Friday, Bonds expressed his loyalty to the Giants, reminiscing about the days he spent at the team’s windy bayside ballpark trailing his father, Bobby Bonds.

He was unconcerned that some Giants fans do not view him with the same warm sentiment.

``It doesn’t matter to me. As long as I can pay my bills and take care of my children,″ he said, ``I don’t need to be an icon.″

Bonds appeared healthier and a bit bulkier than in previous years. He explained that following offseason surgery on his knee, he concentrated on his lower body strength, something he hadn’t done before. The training, he said, eased pain in his back.

Giants second baseman Jeff Kent said he recently was watching television and saw Bonds working out. He said Bonds looked great.

``Yeah, I watched it from the couch,″ Kent laughed.

Although dogged by questions that, at nearly 35, he might be nearing the end of his career, Bonds often made light of his age. He said it might finally work to his advantage after years of trying to get pitches to hit from wary opponents.

``I just hope people think I’m getting a little older, a little slower and they give me a few more chances,″ he said.

Baker thinks Bonds is still in his prime, not just because of his toned body, but because of his mental attitude.

``As long as he continues to love the game,″ Baker said. ``I believe as most guys get older, it’s not the body, it’s if you continue to love the game the same. I do believe he loves the game.″

Last year, Bonds hit .303 with 37 home runs and 122 RBIs. He hit a personal milestone as the lone member of the 400-400 club, and enters this season with 411 homers and 445 steals.

Although last season Bonds suggested his next goal was to reach 500-500 and retire, this year he has other intentions.

``The only goal I have is winning the World Series,″ he said. ``I think I’ve accomplished most of my other goals.″

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