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Bonds Takes Aim At Homer Record In Cozy Enron
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 10/05/2001
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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
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AP Baseball Writer

HOUSTON - Barry Bonds insists he barely notices those inviting fences at Enron Field.

His swing and his stats indicate otherwise.

Needing one home run to match Mark McGwire's record of 70, Bonds made his first visit of the season to Houston's cozy confines on Tuesday night.

"Every time I get into a smaller ballpark, I imagine it's a lot bigger," the San Francisco star said before facing the Houston Astros.

"A lot of my sights are back at our stadium, or St. Louis' stadium," he said. "I really try to set my sights farther than the fence."

Not that he's needed to at Enron, where the power alley in right-center field is just 373 feet. That's the direction where most of Bonds' 69 homers have gone this season.

Last year, Bonds hit four home runs in 16 at-bats at the new stadium, including a 458-foot drive into Ruggles restaurant in center field - the longest shot ever at Enron.

Bonds tied Los Angeles' Gary Sheffield for the most homers by an opponent at the park in 2000. Overall, there were 266 home runs at Enron, most in the majors.

This year, only Coors Field in Colorado has seen homers fly out at a faster rate than Enron.

Bonds looked loose in batting practice, hitting line drive after line drive toward right-center. Some cleared the 10-foot wall and wound up in the hands of fans who came early, hoping to catch souvenirs.

But forget about BP. What really mattered was whether Shane Reynolds and the Astros would give Bonds much to hit once the three-game series began.

"Ask Houston," he said. "That's the only answer I've got for you."

The Astros had a good reason to pitch around him. Having lost three in a row and seen their NL Central lead over St. Louis cut to one game, Houston was in position to clinch at least the wild card spot with a win.

The Giants began the day two games behind Arizona in the NL West.

So, if Bonds was an opposing manager, would he pitch to someone like himself in a key spot?

"Depends," he said, after a long pause and a laugh.

Shane Reynolds was to pitch the opener for Houston. He'd mostly tamed Bonds throughout his career, holding him to 8-for-34 (.235) with two home runs.

Reynolds has excellent control and relies on working both sides of the plate. He walked just five in his previous four starts.

"If you look at all the pitchers I've faced in my career, I think most of them have gotten me out more than I've gotten them," Bonds said.

This year, though, a lot of pitchers haven't taken any chances with him.

Bonds has drawn an NL-record 167 walks. Babe Ruth set the major league mark of 170 in 1923.

"If I had my choice, I'd take the home run record," Bonds said. "Keep the walk record."

Bonds recalled hitting against the likes of Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott when he played Houston long ago. Two weeks ago, Bonds homered once at Pacific Bell Park while Houston swept a three-game series.

"I've never known them to bypass anyone," Bonds said. "They pitched to me last time, and they still walked right through us."

Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker chuckled when he heard Bonds' remarks about Houston challenging him.

"He sounds like a guy who wants to be pitched to," he said. "I'd say he has a career in sales after baseball."

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