Barry Bonds Returns to the Limelight

Feb 19, 2002

Barry Bonds begins the most highly-scrutinized spring training of his career.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Hank Aaron doesn't mind that Barry Bonds is closingin on his home-run record.

That news from the career homer king nearly floored the man who broke thesingle-season mark last year.

Aaron, who finished his career in 1976 with 755 homers, even told Bonds thathe'd held the title long enough.

'Records are meant to be broken, and if you have a chance to do it, then doit,' Bonds said Aaron told him. 'To hear that, shocked me. I didn't know whatto say. I actually started to shake. I had to ask him if he was serious - andhe said he was.'

Bonds, who arrived Tuesday at San Francisco' spring training camp, spent twodays this offseason making a television commercial with Aaron - a spot thatjokingly refers to Bonds' pursuit of Aaron's record.

'I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with Hank,' Bonds said. 'Thisis really the first time I've ever spent time with him.'

Bonds and Aaron talked baseball and home runs.

Bonds hit 73 homers last season, topping Mark McGwire's 70 home-run campaignof 1998.

'He told me to get all I could get out of the game of baseball,' Bondssaid. He called Aaron 'one of my idols.'

Bonds needs 189 home runs to overtake Aaron, but isn't sure he'll ever getthere.

'First, I have to get through this year,' he said. 'And then, there's thenext year and the next.'

Bonds is coming off an incredible season in which he broke the homer record,and also set marks with an .863 slugging percentage and 177 walks. His on-basepercentage of .515 set a modern National League record and was the eighthhighest in major league history.

'I'm nervous about this season,' Bonds said. 'I think the press and fanswill be disappointed if I can't do it again. I did put up some insanenumbers.'

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