Barry Bonds was blessed with both power and speed during his playing days. The former hitting coach for the Marlins put the latter to good use on Monday when he and a host of other prominent sports figures were forced to hightail it out of California’s wine country when wildfires swept through the region.
According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, Bonds was among a group of former athletes who had to make a quick escape when the dangerous fires became too threatening. Bonds and the others were attending Ronnie Lott’s fundraiser at the Mayacama Golf Club in Santa Rosa when the fires broke out. Others on hand included Olympic speedskater Dan Jansen, Hall of Fame hockey goalie Grant Fuhr, and former Major Leaguers Bret Saberhagen and Eric Gagne.
“It was a crazy, surreal night,” Saberhagen told the Chronicle after flying home to Southern California on Monday. “I was out on the balcony at Mayacama when the power went out and sat down, and saw the moon come up. It was very nice. And then I saw the moon turn orange and it started getting lighter and lighter. I saw the fire coming over the ridge and I could hear propane and gas tanks popping.”
Saberhagen ended up leaving his golf clubs in the parking lot in order to squeeze Jansen and his wife into his car. Bonds ferried other evacuees to safety. Gagne raised the alarm at another hotel and knocked on hotel doors to make sure the occupants were out.
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“Eric was yelling, ‘Get up, get up,’ knocking at every door, and when I opened the door, smoke billowed in and I could see areas on fire,” Saberhagen told the Chronicle. “There was a telephone pole on fire, the grounds were on fire, ashes were flying all over the place, and what really scared me was that there was a gas station across the street.”
Wrote Slusser of the harrowing evacuation: Saberhagen and the Jansens raced to the car, and hopped on Highway 12, at one point passing a car that was engulfed in flames. They drove all the way to San Martin in southern Santa Clara County to spend the night. Hall of Fame hockey goalie Grant Fuhr and his wife weren’t able to find rides, Saberhagen said, and they had had to flag down a stranger, who drove them to San Francisco — a journey that took six hours.
Slusser reported that according to Saberhagen and other attendees, “UFC fighter Henry Cejudo didn’t evacuate from the Fountaingrove Inn in Santa Rosa and broke his ankle jumping from a second-story balcony.”
According to former big-leaguer Eric Brynes, who is now a MLB Network analyst, Bonds helped others to escape safely. Brynes told the Chronicle that he spoke to Bonds later on Monday.
“Barry said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. It was crazy,’” Byrnes told the Chronicle. “When he walked out of his bungalow, the flames were right there, so he bounced out of there, and because so many people didn’t have cars, he was taking them all to the next hotel. He made multiple trips. He got evacuated again from that next hotel, but Barry was anticipating it, he said, ‘I know the fire is coming down here.’ It sounded really chaotic.”