Bonds life in the spotlight tougher than some think

By Janie McCauley The Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Seven home runs shy of passing Babe Ruth, this should be a time of unbridled joy and excitement for Barry Bonds.

Not so, he says.

“My life is in shambles. It is crazy,” Bonds said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. “It couldn’t get any crazier. I’m just trying to stay sane.”

Then, clearly joking, he went for shock value:

“Go to the Empire State Building and jump off, commit suicide and people can say, ‘Barry Bonds is finally dead.’ Except for in San Francisco,” he said. “I’ll leave something for them.”

Despite those pronouncements, the 41-year-old Bonds has been upbeat and approachable – by his standards – this spring despite the recent release of “Game of Shadows,” the book detailing his alleged longtime regimen for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

He appears unfazed at the plate. He’s 10-for-16 with four homers in exhibition play despite being held out of San Francisco’s lineup for the third straight day because of a tender left elbow.

Bonds starts the season next Monday at San Diego with 708 homers, close to Ruth and 48 from breaking Hank Aaron’s mark of 755.

Asked how he blocks out distractions, he says:

“What’s my job description? That’s what I’m doing at that time,” Bonds said. “No, I don’t forget (what is said). I will never forget. I forgive you but I don’t forget. I forgive everybody.”

Bonds teased about starting the season on the disabled list, – saying “it could happen” – then changed his stance completely and said he “will” play in one of the Giants’ exhibition games back in the Bay Area later this week.

Bonds certainly looks healthy and vibrant, though still a little heavier than usual.

He spent the morning slurping a smoothie while sitting in his corner locker, and wrestling with his personal videographer in the clubhouse. He stopped by the card table to socialize with teammates, too. Later, he had a lengthy sitdown with players’ union head Donald Fehr.

Bonds is scheduled to return to California on Tuesday – one day before the Giants officially break camp in Arizona – and work out Wednesday in San Francisco.

Bonds played in only 14 games last season, all in September, following three operations on his troublesome right knee. An exam over the weekend on his elbow revealed inflammation.

“It’s fine,” Bonds said. “The knee is good. … I’ve just got to get my strength back. My legs are fine. I just took a couple weeks off from training.”

Bonds joked that he is ready for the season to start because then “it’s closer to being over.” He is in the final year of a $90 million, five-year contract and will be eligible for free agency after the World Series.

Bonds has said he wants to retire in San Francisco, and the Giants realize he is the biggest reason they have drawn 3 million fans a year in each of the first six seasons of their waterfront ballpark ” the highest attendance in the National League during that period.