SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy’s first season as the Giants’ manager was 2007 -- a summer-long maelstrom when Barry Bonds caught and passed Hank Aaron as baseball’s all-time home run leader.
There wasn’t a day that season when Bochy wasn’t asked, usually in four or five variations, about Bonds being a distraction to his team.
Seven years and two World Series titles later, Bochy is fielding the same question.
“Well, sure, you understand there will be a lot of attention,” said Bochy, asked about the news that Bonds would join the Giants as a special instructor in spring training next month. “It’s the first time he’s been back since he stopped playing. Our goal is not to let that be a distraction.”
Besides, as Bochy sees it, the benefits far outweigh the potential drawbacks.
“To have his knowledge and to have a guy who is one of the greatest hitters of all time, it’s going to be beneficial to everybody,” Bochy said. “Barry, sure, he was a talent. But he was a very smart hitter. We’re looking forward to hearing a lot of what he has to say.”
Bochy said Bonds would help in a similar capacity to other guest instructors, a group that includes Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow, Randy Winn and Robb Nen. Bochy wasn’t sure if Bonds would take the floor and address the whole team or work individually with hitters. It’s all to be determined -- along with the actual date he arrives. The current plan calls for him to come to Scottsdale around March 7 or 8 and stay a week.
He won’t be paid, outside of a per diem and travel costs.
Bochy said this is something Bonds is eager to do.
“I know he’s had some things on his plate,” said Bochy, referring to Bonds’ legal issues, the bulk of which have run their course. “But now it looks like he has time on his hands and he has a passion for hitting and an interest to get back in the game and help hitters.”
Spring camp was a hoopla every year when Bonds reported during his playing days, and the Giants could experience a mini version of that when he arrives as an instructor. Some more national outlets figure to drop in while he’s here. But when the Cardinals named Mark McGwire as hitting coach in 2009, it didn’t take long for the coverage to die down.
A lot was made last season of the Giants “losing” an outfield sign commemorating Bonds’ record-breaking home run, along with the general lack of visible ties between the organization and its former franchise star.
But Bochy said he never lost contact with Bonds. And he doesn’t see any reason to tell him to stay away now.
“I think any time Barry can come in and work with the hitters is a good time,” Bochy said.