Barry Bonds has basically become baseball’s version of a phoenix, the mythical creature that ignites itself and turns to ashes before experiencing a total rebirth.
Once a hulking and menacing figure, the slugger rewrote the home run record books in his days clobbering baseballs with the San Francisco Giants. He didn’t make many friends doing it, either. Bonds garnered a reputation for being a nasty, short-tempered and combative presence with many people — especially the media — during his 22-year playing career. Combine that with all the steroid accusations, and he was one of baseball’s greatest villains for the PED epoch.
But gone is that version of Bonds, who disappeared into the flames shortly after passing Hank Aaron atop baseball’s all-time home run list in 2007. Now, nearly a decade later, emerging from the ashes is a much older, much slimmer and much friendlier Bonds. After years away from the game, the 51-year-old is reinserting himself back into the baseball scene — this time in Miami, where he serves as the Marlins’ hitting coach.
These days, he has a tendency to flash his wide smile much more often. He seems to have better relationships with those that surround him on a daily basis. He has a new life.
But he also has regrets for the way he lived his old one.
In a piece by Terence Moore of Sports On Earth, Bonds confesses to being responsible for crafting the poor image that developed during his days with the Pittsburgh Pirates, then followed him when he tried to get a fresh start in San Fransisco. He opened up and gave some insight into how it all happened.
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. You know what I mean? It was never something that I really ever wanted. No one wants to be treated like that, because I was considered to be a terrible person. You’d have to be insane to want to be treated like that. That makes no sense.
“Hell, I kick myself now, because I’m getting great press [since being more cooperative], and I could have had a trillion more endorsements, but that wasn’t my driving force. The problem was, when I tried to give in a little bit, it never got better. I knew I was in the midst of that image, and I determined at that point that I was never going to get out of it.
“So I just said, ‘I’ve created this fire around me, and I’m stuck in it, so I might as well live with the flames.'”