Barry Bonds rides his bicycle across the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne, stops for a quick coffee break, and then pedals back across the bridge — up and over to downtown Miami.
It’s become the home run king’s morning ritual.
But when Bonds returns home to San Francisco when the Marlins go there to face the Giants this weekend, he will sit astride his Alberto Contador “Specialized” — his bike of preference — and traverse his favorite bridge.
The Golden Gate.
“I will ride my bike like I always do, over the bridge, over to Sausalito,” he said.
Ask Bonds which bridge of the two provides the best view and vibe, and he acts like it’s the most insane question he has ever heard.
“That’s funny — not even worth commenting on,” he said, smiling.
Golden Gate, all the way, in other words.
Bonds might be the Marlins’ new, high-profile hitting coach, but he still bleeds San Francisco and the Giants, with whom he spent the last 15 of his 22 big-league seasons.
“It’s not going to feel strange,” Bonds said of his return. “That’s my home. That will always be my home. I don’t feel strange at home.”
What might make the Friday-through-Sunday stay feel peculiar is that Bonds, for the first time, will be sitting in the visitor’s dugout at AT&T Park and devising strategies to help Marlins hitters beat the team he once played for. There will be no mixed feelings when it comes to that, he said.
“It will be different being on the opposite side,” Bonds said. “But it’s expected. This is the job I chose. This is what I decided to do. I will be happy for them [the Giants] when we leave. But I’m not going to be happy for them while we’re there.”
Even though it has been nine years since Bonds last suited up for the Giants, he looms as large an icon with them as former greats Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal. As such, Bonds can expect to become the story when the teams hook up.
Bonds dismisses the attention and demands of his time he will likely encounter.
“There will be attention on the players — I’m not an attraction,” Bonds said.
Instead, Bonds said he will try to focus on his job, which he said he is enjoying.
“This is my coaching job,” Bonds said as he watched the Marlins prepare for batting practice. “I take my job seriously.”
Bonds has quickly found that there’s a huge difference from playing and coaching, that he’s now responsible for every hitter on the Marlins. Before, during his playing days, he only had to worry about himself.
The slumps of the Marlins’ hitters are now his slumps.
“You wear it on you because you want them to do well,” Bonds said. “It’s like a parent. You want your kids to do well. You feel that emotion with them. I don’t get frustrated. They get frustrated. I get frustrated for them.”
And the joys that come with their success are those he shares, as well.
Bonds has shown exuberance after home runs and big hits, jumping up and down in the dugout and hugging batters when they succeed.
“It’s nice to be back on the field,” Bonds said. “I like it a lot. It feels better on this side than when I was playing. I was always focused in on, ‘I’ve got to do the next job. I’ve got to play defense.’ Now I get to be on this side and enjoy it. When I see something they are working so hard on and they are actually doing it, it’s exciting.”
Now Bonds is heading home, at least for a short visit.
He said he will stay at the team home hotel with the Marlins, spend time with his mother and bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.
He will surely experience Giants flashbacks.
“My dream as a little boy was to play in the outfield with my dad [Bobby Bonds] and Willie Mays,” he said. “I wanted to play left field. My dream came true [in fantasies] because Willie played center and my dad played right. So when I played in San Francisco, I played with the ghosts.”
San Francisco is the first stop of a three-city trip for the Marlins. When they return home, Bonds will continue his biking ritual to Key Biscayne, where the locals are starting to recognize him.
“They are starting to know I’m out there now,” Bonds said. “I’m making some good friends.”
In his new home away from home.