SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Barry Bonds is home again, this time for good.
Baseball’s home run king was honored by the San Francisco Giants with the unveiling of a plaque bearing his likeness on the team’s Wall of Fame at AT&T Park during a pre-game ceremony Saturday.
The 52-year-old former slugger, who hit 762 home runs during a 22-year career with the Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates, waved to the estimated crowd of nearly 1,000 fans, many wearing Bonds’ No. 25 jerseys, who lined up behind barricades not far from the player’s entrance at AT&T Park to witness the 40-minute ceremony honoring the seven-time NL MVP.
Several of Bonds’ former teammates were on hand, as was Giants manager Bruce Bochy, along with Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Willie Mays, who is Bonds’ godfather.
Chants of “Barry, Barry, Barry,” rippled through the crowd as Bonds walked to the podium following speeches by ex-teammates Kirk Reuter, Rich Aurilia, former team owner Peter Magowan and current Giants Chief Executive Officer Larry Baer.
“I love you guys so much,” Bonds told the crowd. “I’ve always made the statement when people say, ‘How are your fans in San Francisco?’ I say ‘I never had any fans, I’ve always had family because I was raised here.’ I just want to thank you for giving me opportunity to entertain the city that has embraced me and my family for so many years.”
Bonds, dressed in a dark-colored suit with a white shirt and grey tie, thanked ownership and fans and spoke of his excitement over signing with the Giants in 1992 — the same team his father Bobby and Mays played for.
“Truthfully, I didn’t even know what the contract was,” Bonds said. “I was just like, ‘I’m going home. This is where I belong. This is my family.'”
Bochy, who managed against Bonds while with the San Diego Padres for a decade before joining the Giants in Bonds’ final season of 2007, called the slugger one of the most influential players in franchise history.
“He’s a guy that’s probably impacted the Giants as much as anybody,” Bochy said. “He kept San Francisco here. The numbers are absolutely incredible.”
With his mother Pat along with his three children seated on stage nearby, Bonds joined Magowan and Bear in the unveiling of the plaque which features Bonds’ face in the middle flanked by action shots of him on either side.
Bonds is the 49th Giant to be honored on the Wall of Fame, along with his father Bobby and Mays.
“As a kid I admired Willie Mays and I wanted my dad and Willie to say I was a good baseball player,” Bonds said. “I was always striving for their approval my whole entire life. I made a couple mistakes here and there. Willie wore 24, my dad wore 25. I probably should have picked 26 because that would complete our circle.”