Tempe is where Barry Bonds went to college. Scottsdale is where Bonds trains in the spring. Baseball’s most prolific home run hitter has strong East Valley connections — but considering the allegations of steroid use and accusations of a bad attitude, are ties to Bonds actually snares?
On MLB.com, the Web page for Bonds lists “College: Arizona State.” And every late February through March since 1993, any news created by Bonds — be it recovery from knee surgery, leaks from a federal grand jury or a majestic blast — carries the dateline: SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.
Now that Bonds hit No. 756 Tuesday night to break Hank Aaron’s storied record, local reaction is much like a pop-up plummeting to the turf amid fielders, with responses falling somewhere between rejoicing, respect, resignation and rage.
“He’s a jackass.”
That was the unanimous feeling at Scottsdale Plumbing, a loud foul ball away from Bonds’ home field in the spring.
Employee Lindsay Garvey knows more than a little about baseball, thanks to a grandfather who was a longtime executive in the minor leagues. She believes Bonds is the best player ever, adding there’s no proof of steroid abuse; she respects his arguments but isn’t buying into Barry.
“I don’t think he shows his fans respect, and that’s why I don’t like him – not because he’s not a good baseball player,” said Garvey, 25.
“But if it came out that he did steroids, then all his records should be taken away.”
At nearby Sun Devil Trophy — a business that knows quite a bit about awards, honors and accolades — workers had mixed emotions.
“I think he did do (steroids), but I also think he is the greatest baseball player I’ll see in my lifetime,” Ryan Pickard said.
Added Mark Hanson: “For the longest time, (baseball) never tested for drugs and now everybody is tested. So, he’s going to break the record not on steroids, but to get to the record he probably was on steroids.”
During the Cactus League season, a sea of people clad in orange and black flows past these Osborn Road businesses. These fans head toward Scottsdale Stadium, where attendance has boomed during the Bonds Era. This past March, the Giants enjoyed a per-game turnstile count of 10,642 — the second-highest among the teams training in Arizona.
More fans means more money for the Scottsdale Charros philanthropic organization. The Charros run the stadium’s game-day operations, with proceeds going to the community.
“With good attendance, we’re able to raise the revenue bar a little bit and give away more money within the city,” said president Mark Stieg, a local orthodontist.
“So from a perspective of the Charros, it’s nice to have (Bonds) around because he is a great draw for folks to come out to the ball park.”
The distance between Scottsdale Stadium and Arizona State University is short: 4 miles. But Bonds needed almost 25 years to make the journey from skinny prep hot-shot to baseball immortality.
It was in the fall of 1982 that Bonds reported to the Tempe campus. At the time, he was known mostly for his famous father — Bobby Bonds, a speedy slugger in his own right.
But when Bonds left ASU after the 1985 season, his collegiate statistics stood at a .347 batting average with 45 home runs.
Pat Murphy, ASU’s current coach, had no relationship with Bonds when he came to the school in 1994. He worked to forge a rapport with the star, and found him to be nothing like his reputation.
“He’s been great to us. He’s been great to our program and he’s been a great friend to me,” Murphy said. “Amid all controversy, people don’t know the side of Barry we get to see.”
Murphy and Sun Devil historian Bob Eger both mentioned a sight seen during the Sun Devils’ 2005 season: Bonds, working with hitters Travis Buck, Colin Curtis and Jeff Larish.
At the time, Bonds was coming off one of the greatest seasons in major-league history and had already crested 700 career home runs. But following a ceremony to honor former coach Jim Brock, Bonds still had an hour for three college players who, like himself, are left-handed power hitters.
After the tutorial, Larish hit .349 with 18 of his Pac-10 leading 23 homers.
“That changed Larish’s season around and led us to a World Series third-place finish,” Murphy recalled.
Added Eger: “It was amazing to watch him work with the kids. He’s really got a gift for teaching.”
On a recent muggy afternoon, a Midwestern family, taking a break from visiting relatives in the Valley, was poking around Packard Stadium. There, they saw Bonds’ retired ASU jersey number, 24, posted on the outfield fence.
To the Kremskes of Woodstock, Ill., Bonds’ alleged improprieties have tarnished and diminished the home run record.
But his school, they thought, doesn’t suffer the same fate.
Said father Randy Kremske: “He probably changed after he left here.”