The third question had just come from the throng of about 100 reporters on Tuesday when Barry Bonds was slightly jolted from the vibration of the cell phone ringing on his hip.
Answering the call, the San Francisco Giants slugger said to the person on the other end, “I’m doing a press conference, man.” He then put the phone away, telling the media that, “You all can’t see that. It’s too high-tech.”
From there, Bonds’ time in front of the microphone at Scottsdale Stadium grew more outlandish, not less.
Over the next 30 minutes, baseball’s single-season and potential all-time home run king — the man at the epicenter of the steroids controversy that has engulfed baseball in the last two years — gestured, raised his voice and contributed defiantly to the circus he said damages the sport.
In Bonds’ first public statements since a December newspaper report that he told a grand jury he might have unknowingly taken steroids, he said that he had nothing to apologize for, called every reporter in the room a liar and indicated scrutiny over his achievements is due in part to his race.
“I’m just sorry that we’re going through all this rerun stuff,” said Bonds, who reported to Giants camp on Tuesday. “None of us (players) want to go through this stuff. We just want to go do our jobs. What’s the purpose of all this writing and rewriting, over and over again?”
Before Bonds spoke, a Giants spokesman said the player was legally bound from talking about a federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), which his grand jury testimony is part of. Still, steroids queries dominated the proceedings.
When the seven-time National League MVP was asked the reason for the bigger build resulting in a power surge that has brought him just 53 home runs shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time mark, Bonds said: “Hard work, that’s about it. Now, it’s put to rest.”
Asked later if he knowingly or inadvertently took steroids, Bonds said, “Why do you keep asking the same things again? I am not a child, OK? You repeat the same things to children, and they eventually tell you. I don’t.”
Bonds praised the new drug-testing policy implemented by Major League Baseball and the players’ association and said it needs time to work.
“I truly believe we need to go forward,” Bonds said. “You cannot rehash the past, OK?. . . When there has been an incident, it's been corrected. I think that this one is being corrected, and we need to let it go.”
Between breaths, Bonds said he was excited about new acquisition Moises Alou protecting him in the lineup, but added he did not know if he would be recovered from offseason knee surgeries in time for opening day.
Bonds had both knees operated on, most recently surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on Jan. 31.
“Now that I’m here, I have my boys (trainers), we’ll put it back together again, we always do,” Bonds said. “I’ll do what I need to and get as strong as I can and go out and do my job.”
Before leaving the press conference and stopping to sign autographs for about 10 minutes on his way out of Scottsdale Stadium, Bonds fired a few more salvos:
- On closing in on Babe Ruth’s 714 career home runs: “Babe Ruth is one of the greatest baseball players ever, and Babe Ruth ain’t black.
“I’m black, and we go through (scrutiny) a little bit more. I said it. I’m not a racist, but I live in the real world. I’m fine with that.”
- On the media: “All you guys lied. All of you have said something wrong. All of you have dirt. All of you. When your closet is clean, worry about someone else’s.”
Later asked what has been said or written that is not true, Bonds said, “I don’t read all your stuff, but you write your stories, you know.”
- On Jose Canseco’s new book, “Juiced,” which suggests Bonds has juiced: “Canseco has to come with a lot more than what he’s talking about and fiction, man. It’s just a way to make a buck. That’s all it is, making money.
“But I don’t know Jose. I was better than Jose then, and I have been better than Jose his whole career.”