Barry Bonds, home run king and Miami Marlins hitting coach, is enjoying somewhat of a personal and professional renaissance this year. He’s back in baseball for the first time since 2007, he seems to be enjoying himself, and the Marlins look much better than last year now that Bonds is on their staff.
He’s spending his days winning dinger contests and hanging out with good dogs, both of which speak to a decidedly more relaxed Bonds that has relaxed off of the notoriously dickish persona he had during his Giants days. He opened up to Sports On Earth’s Terence Moore, and got into his days as a noxious asshole:
“Me. It’s on me. I’m to blame for the way I was [portrayed], because I was a dumbass. I was straight stupid, and I’ll be the first to admit it,” said Bonds, nodding in the visitors’ dugout at Turner Field last week, when he was in Atlanta during his first year as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. “I mean, I was just flat-out dumb. What can I say? I’m not going to try to justify the way I acted toward people. I was stupid. It wasn’t an image that I invented on purpose. It actually escalated into that, and then I maintained it.”
Bonds admitted that the immediate pressure to be a superstar with the Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off the negative feedback loop that eventually led him to become one of the greatest sports villains of the nineties and aughts. Bonds doesn’t seem like someone who let pressure slide off him easily.
“The expectations were just thrown on me to carry that whole team, and I was too young to handle all of that. I took it personally, and I was offended by it. I also was really disappointed, and I allowed my emotions to get involved. That sort of escalated everything.”
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Perhaps the most interesting anecdote was the one about Bonds trying to force himself to change and be nicer to media, only for it to effect his production. His teammates eventually came to him and told him to be a dick again:
“And I did change. I was nice, and I was saying, ‘Hello’ to folks and I was very calm. But I was like 0-for-21. And the first thing those teammates said to me was, ‘We want the old Barry back.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but y’all don’t like the old Barry.’ And they said, ‘We don’t care. We want the old Barry back.’ But the media never knew that was happening, and I was still being cooperative with [reporters] during that stretch, and they were still writing crazy stuff about me, but in that new role, I didn’t care.
“We weren’t doing well, and I wasn’t doing well, but I still clapped my hands and saying, ‘That’s OK, man. We’ll be fine.’ But my teammates didn’t like that person. They wanted the ogre back.”
Coaching seems like a good fit for the new Bonds. He can use his exacting baseball mind for good without having to be out in public, carrying responsibility for the daily wins and losses. He now takes his obsessive workout needs out on his bicycle, which he brings with him on the road, and generally sounds like a more balanced, happier person.