SAN FRANCISCO &
Barry Bonds loves being the center of attention so much that he joked he might drag his home run chase all the way into next year.
"I'm not quitting, so I might make you wait 'til next year," Bonds said to the swarm around him. "You know I'm drama, so why not make it more drama?"
And boy was he ever Monday, when all eyes were on No. 25 as the All-Star festivities came to his town.
Bonds has 751 homers, four short of matching Hank Aaron's record &
so it's hardly likely his pursuit will last until 2008.
For now, he simply doesn't care whether commissioner Bud Selig is around to see the record fall.
Selig still hasn't said whether he plans to be in the ballpark when and if Bonds hits No. 756. Selig's indecision has drawn a lot of criticism. Oddly, he finds himself with an unusual ally on the topic &
"Does it matter to me? I think it's just terrible the way it's gone down, that's all," the San Francisco slugger said a day before Tuesday's All-Star game.
"That's up to Bud, it's not up to me. I'm going to do my thing anyway. I have to go out and play for my teammates. That's up to Bud. Bud is his own man. And I respect him. Whether Bud shows up or doesn't show up, I'm going to still play baseball that day," he said.
The Hammer has made it clear that he won't attend the milestone and Bonds doesn't blame him.
"No one can determine when that's going to happen, and Hank has a life, too," Bonds said. "You could go weeks. You expect this man to just travel all over this continent for weeks?
"It's just not fair to him. That's just all it's about. If you can predict what you're going to do and he can get there and like OK, bam, it's going to be this day and this time, that's a different scenario.
"Hank's a great ballplayer. He's the home run king. He will always be the home run king in our hearts. We respect him. We love him. Hank, if you want to stay home, stay home, brother," he said.
Bonds hit seven home runs in six rounds of batting practice Monday afternoon, splashing one into McCovey Cove beyond the right-field fence &
where the boats already were out in force for the festivities. Bonds opted to skip Monday night's Home Run Derby.
After Bonds finished hitting, a public-service announcement appeared on the center-field scoreboard and the audio was broadcast over the stadium sound system.
"Sports are great for kids," it said. "Steroids aren't."
Revered in his own ballpark, Bonds is usually booed on the road, with fans suggesting his accomplishments are tainted because of steroids allegations.
The 42-year-old Bonds will start in left field Tuesday night. He earned the spot in fan voting and it was his 14th All-Star selection and first in three years.
Asked what the key has been to his success at his age, Bonds stayed to the point: "Talent. I have it. I've always had it. I feel good, and I feel happy."
As Bonds spoke, he held a personal tape recorder in his left hand to post the session on his Web site, .
Bonds had a big bash with hip-hop mogul Jay-Z planned for Monday night regardless of whether he'd been picked for the game.
Bonds spent much of the day socializing and signing autographs, wasting no time giving a surprise bear hug from behind to Jim Leyland, Bonds' first skipper in Pittsburgh. The seven-time NL MVP also signed one of his jerseys worn by 8-year-old Darren Baker, son of former Giants manager Dusty Baker.
"It's a dream. You dream about going to a World Series," Bonds said. "I had that opportunity and unfortunately we lost. I've seen All-Star games in everyone else's city. To be able to have it in your own city is great. I want a ring and to win, but if it doesn't happen I've had the opportunity to experience it. Then I've had the opportunity to experience this at home.
"I've pretty much had the opportunity to experience almost everything you can actually experience in the game of baseball. And I've also had the opportunity to experience it with one of the greatest baseball players to ever live in Willie Mays, and I had to be with him my entire life. I've lived a dream my whole entire life regardless of what anybody says."
Bonds has been hitting about one homer a week recently after connecting for 11 homers by early May. He has 17 this year and only six since getting his 745th off the Mets' Tom Glavine on May 8. Bonds has drawn 91 walks, with 30 intentional free passes.
"I'm going to answer this question even though it hasn't been asked: I will not intentionally walk Barry Bonds in the All-Star game," Leyland said.
NL manager Tony La Russa of the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals will bat Bonds in the second spot, rather than his usual cleanup slot.
"I let him know, as I mentioned, you know, damage in that second spot is something that I've always thought made sense," La Russa said.
Bonds was jeered in St. Louis, as he is in opposing ballparks. Fans often hold up signs reading "CHEATER" or "Barroid" or placards showing an asterisk.
"I'm not treated bad on the road," he said.
"My thing is that I feel disappointed in some of those fans that were influenced by a third-party judgment and have not (taken) the opportunity just to know me.
"People in San Francisco know me. The fans here know me. Fans outside the city only get to see me three days. To judge me based on a third party, that is what disappoints me ... when actually I've done nothing wrong to you," he said.
Some of Bonds' All-Star colleagues took time Monday to defend him.
"I don't think it's fair," Minnesota outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He hasn't been found guilty of anything. If you find something on him, then I'll be right there with you guys. But you haven't found anything. Hank Aaron should be there. Bud Selig should be there. This is big. They should celebrate it."
The center of attention
SAN FRANCISCO &