SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays strolled into the Scottsdale Stadium clubhouse Saturday morning, a small bag hanging over his right shoulder. The next member of the 600-homer club to walk through the door will bring considerably more baggage.
Barry Bonds is scheduled to return to the Giants from March 9-17, serving as a special instructor for the organization's young hitters. Bonds has long wanted to take on a more active role with the organization, but the two sides have not been connected in an official capacity since 2007, Bonds' last season in Major League Baseball.
The years since have been filled with performance-enhancing drug allegations, a perjury trial and a conviction for obstruction of justice, but the Giants are not worried about Bonds being a distraction.
“He's part of what we'll do here,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He's going to be part of the group of instructors, like (Will) Clark, (J.T.) Snow or (Jeff) Kent. He's going to be like the other guys and help where he can.
“I don't have any concerns.”
During an appearance at AT&T Park in 2012, Bonds told reporters that he had approached Giants CEO and President Larry Baer about working for the club in some form. The conversations have continued informally since then, and the Giants felt that the timing was finally right to bring back one the best players in baseball history, albeit one with a complicated history.
“Collectively within the organization, we felt that given Barry's desire to continue to contribute to the Giants, we should be open-minded about giving him the same invite that we have given to other players in the past,” Baer said.
The Giants began preparing for Bonds' arrival at Scottsdale Stadium long before camp opened Feb. 14, and his return to the batting cage is sure to bring with it a new collection of cameras. Bonds' last media session at AT&T Park came May 29, 2012, a year after a federal conviction for obstruction of justice for giving “evasive answers” during grand jury investigation into BALCO.
“Do I have any regrets? What happened happened,” Bonds said at the time. “It's there. It is what it is. I live with it. I'm a convicted felon for obstruction of justice, and that's who I am. I live with it.”
A federal appeals court upheld the conviction last September and Bonds has completed a 30-day home confinement sentence. Even with federal charges hanging over his head, Bonds has shown up at several Giants games over the past two seasons, always sitting in an aisle seat a couple dozen rows up from the plate. Aside from his legal troubles, Bonds has mostly kept a low profile in his post-playing days. He is said to be an avid cyclist and has lost considerable weight since the final at-bat of his 15-year Giants career.
Bonds, now 49, holds Major League Baseball records for home runs in a season (73) and career (762), but he was far more than just a slugger. Bonds had a .444 career on-base percentage and stole 514 bases, and in recent years he has on several occasions quietly slipped into the home clubhouse at AT&T Park to dispense hitting advice.
The Giants are not sure what to expect from Bonds the special instructor, but he is viewed as someone who can make a difference for young players. While Bonds has a 10-year personal services contract with the organization, this stint is part of a separate plan. Bonds will spend a week with the club and the two sides will go from there. If all goes well, Bonds could join Clark, Snow, Kent, Randy Winn, Robb Nen and other former Giants who are permanently welcome in Scottsdale every spring.
The Giants agreed to a one-year deal with veteran outfielder Tyler Colvin, who will compete for the fifth roster spot in the outfield.
“He's an experienced player with a good bat,” Bochy said. “You never know ... this spring he'll get some playing time. We're glad to have him here. He gives us more depth and he'll be in the mix.”
Colvin will compete with Juan Perez and Roger Kieschnick, both of whom saw time with the Giants last season. The 28-year-old had reached an agreement with the Baltimore Orioles in January, but the Orioles backed out of the deal after concerns were raised during Colvin's physical. The Orioles took heat for pulling a similar move with former A's closer Grant Balfour, and Colvin said his back tightness, which contributed to him hitting .160 for the Colorado Rockies last season, is a thing of the past.