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Bonding at the ballpark: Home-run record chase fun to watch, whether you’re a fan or not fan

Voices of the Clarion

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2007

The chants reverberated throughout the stadium.

“BALCO!”

“Steroids!”

Signs were visible in every direction.

“756*” — the asterisk representing a tainted record.

Even children, possibly attending their first baseball game ever on Father’s Day, joined in the fun, ridiculing Barry Bonds with every ounce of strength they had.

And through it all, the San Francisco Giants’ slugger acted like a professional.

He is human, or so we think, thus he can’t just forget about the steroid investigation swirling around him.

For the time being, though, he sure acts like he can.

Standing in the batter’s box at Fenway Park for his third at-bat of the final game of a three-game series two weeks ago today, Bonds watched a knuckleball from Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield float by him for ball one.

Jeers still resounding throughout the park, Bonds stepped out of the box.

Accused — or plainly put — already indicted in the court of public opinion for steroid use, Bonds’ reputation will never be the same.

Whether he abused them, or other performing enhancing drugs such as the “clear” or the “cream,” as he said he unknowingly used, is irrelevant at this point.

In a couple of weeks, maybe a month, Barry Bonds will sock his 756th homer, surpassing Hammerin’ Hank Aaron as Major League Baseball’s new all-time home run king.

And man, will that be sweet.

Don’t mistake that statement for support of Bonds, because I’ll be the last one to join his campaign.

Rather, I say that out of relief.

Because when he hits that record-breaking HR, the ongoing debates, discussions and deliberations can finally end, leaving everyone, including me, to focus on the future.

Yeah, Bonds will be the new home run king. So what?

Roughly eight years down the road, barring any unfortunate injuries, New York Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez will eventually supplant him, too.

Set to turn 32 years old in July, A-Rod is primed to be crowned king, with 492 round trippers already to his credit.

Having averaged almost 45 homers over the past nine seasons, he needs about 35 a year for the next seven-plus years and he’ll easily dethrone Bonds to the delight of millions.

But enough with the future, let’s get back to Barry.

Whether he deserves to hold one of the most hallowed records in all of professional sports will always be a hot topic.

Fans of Bonds or even the Giants will stick by him, evidenced by the crowd at Fenway on that beautiful afternoon two weeks ago.

Having been to roughly 50 or 60 Sox games throughout my life, I have never seen so many fans of the visiting team than I did that afternoon for the Giants.

Planted beside every sign mocking one of the greatest players to ever live — it’s true — there were orange and brown jerseys with Bonds’ name printed on the back.

“Where did they get all the tickets?” my father asked me.

I had no idea.

Just like I don’t know for sure if Bonds was, or is, juiced.

Either way, this 42-year-old continues to impress me.

My camera recording his every movement, hoping to catch a glimpse of history in the making, Bonds stepped back into the box.

With the Sox already owning a comfortable 8-3 lead in the sixth, there was no doubt I wanted to see him take one deep.

His ears surely filled with displeasure, he sent the next Wakefield offering sailing into deep right field.

Camera in hand, still focused on Bonds, I followed the ball as best I could.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sox right fielder and former Peninsula Oiler J.D. Drew leap in front of the visitor’s bullpen.

The ensuing ovation overshadowed any lingering boos.

Had Drew made the catch, robbing Bonds, as I had initially thought?

Not quite.

Instead, Bonds hit his first HR at Fenway Park and the 748th of his illustrious, yet possibly contaminated, career.

The crowd, still packed with Giants fans, erupted in cheers.

Sox fans alike, though, were also standing and clapping.

I was, too.

You don’t need to be a fan of Barry Bonds to enjoy his home run chase. Just a fan of the game.

And hey, there’s always A-Rod, right?

Matthew Carroll is a sports reporter for the Clarion. He can be reached at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com.



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