Aug. 15, 2006
By Andrew Baggarly, Inside Bay Area - It's been almost 18 months since Barry Bonds showed up at an Arizona State baseball practice, spent a couple hours working with kids in the batting cage and a couple more laughing and talking about hitting.
ASU coach Pat Murphy noted a huge and immediate change in several players on a team that went on to a third-place finish in the College World Series.
And Bonds might have emerged a changed person, too.
The 42-year-old slugger is unsigned after this season, he is coming to the end of his career and he is thinking about the next one. It could be in college baseball.
"When I went to ASU and I worked with those kids and I saw the results, I knew that I could teach," Bonds said in a recent interview. "You have it in your head, but you don't know if you could give it to another person so they could apply it. When I went to ASU and gave them a little bit of what I knew and it made a world of difference, I realized there's something I can offer to a young person.
"It took that to realize it's something I'd like to do."
Murphy thinks it's a great idea.
"Hitting is what this man knows, and it's what he loves," Murphy said. "When a presence like his uses his influence and talks about something so passionate to him, it just means more. He makes such a big impact. I think he'd be a great teacher.
"Now, he doesn't have the first clue about being a head coach. The college game has changed since he played it. But he'd pick it up pretty fast."
Murphy joked that Bonds would have to survive the interview process to win a job on his staff, and if he's hired, he would be the low man on the totem pole.
"Nutrition checks, study hall -- we'd put him on all that,"Murphy said with a laugh.
"He's not going to come into my locker room and grab a lounge chair. In here, he's a rookie."
"We could use a new press box too, in case he wants to buy one for us," Murphy added.
Bonds isn't contemplating a move back to Arizona or taking a salaried position. He says he is tired of being in the public eye, so don't expect him to take over a program like Tony Gwynn did at San Diego State.
"I would never, ever, ever ..." said Bonds, who has a 10-year personal services contract with the Giants when his career ends. "Once I'm gone, I don't think you guys will ever see me again. You'll miss me, too."
If Bonds became a hitting coach, he'd be more of a guru, perhaps helping ASU when it comes to play at UCLA, and taking on special projects.
"Right now, I don't want to give it all out," said Bonds, whose 723 home runs ranks only behind Hank Aaron's major league record of 755. "Like my dad said, keep it all in your head until you're done."
Bonds is certain of one thing: He considers college athletes the perfect age to teach. High school kids are still growing into their bodies, and Bonds sees too many unsavory politics associated with the pro game.
"Major-leaguers are different because the guys have (developed) their own thought processes. They're already adults," Bonds said. "Kids are different. Their enthusiasm is a little bit different. They're trying to get somewhere. They've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
"Major league baseball players have a lot to lose if they (mess) up doing something that you say, and it doesn't work. Because it's a business, it's your career, it's your job."
The 2005 ASU club was supposed to be rebuilding but surpassed expectations with a strong finish in the College World Series. After the season, each Sun Devils player pitched in $250 to purchase commemorative rings. Then the team voted on who most deserved to get them.
They sent one to Bonds, with his name engraved on it.
"Even some of the players didn't get one," Murphy said. "Barry's got it somewhere, I guarantee you."
Murphy believes that Bonds could even help to bring more African-American players into the college game, which he considers one of the purest forms of baseball.
"But you go tell him this," Murphy said, mocking a threatening tone. "If he works at any other program other than ASU, his (retired) number is coming off that outfield wall."