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HomeSportsPro
Published: 8/6/2007

Bonds says 755 took the pressure off

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN DIEGO Barry Bonds isn t ready to call his next history-making shot.

A day before taking his quest for the record back home to San Francisco, Bonds sat back and took a deep breath to enjoy his 755th home run.

There s no pressure on me to do this right away. If I keep my mechanics right, you guys won t be around long, Bonds said yesterday. I d love to do a lot of things, but a lot of good fortunes have to come with that too. I m going to do my best.

Tying Hank Aaron s record on the road lined up Bonds to be crowned the home run king in his Northern California comfort zone.

He ll get his first chance at 756 tonight, in the opener of a four-game series with the Washington Nationals. Bonds said he had heard of Washington s starter for the first game, rookie left-hander John Lannan, but that s about it.

He didn t plan on doing much studying either.

I don t like to remember too much of anything, Bonds said. I like the challenge in front of me.

Bonds had a strong feeling he was headed for history as ball after ball hit his bat and flew over Petco Park s faraway fences during his early batting practice Saturday. Five hours later, Bonds hit an opposite-field drive of 382 feet to left-center to match Aaron s 33-year-old mark.

When I m swinging the bat, doing things in batting practice, I can tell, Bonds said, standing at his locker as he leisurely got ready for a series finale in which he did not start. If I get into position to do some things, you re in trouble.

Bonds, like Aaron in 1974, tied the record on the road. Bonds was playing some 400 miles south of his hometown of San Francisco, the city where he is beloved despite allegations that steroids fueled his pursuit.

After the big drive, Bonds spoke to pal Ken Griffey Jr. and received a congratulatory message from Alex Rodriguez, who hit his 500th homer earlier Saturday. Bonds Hall of Fame godfather, Willie Mays, also left a greeting on his voice mail.

There was nothing from Aaron, who has said he will have no part in celebrating the feat.

This is the hardest thing I ve had to do in my entire career, Bonds said. I had rashes on my head; I felt like I was getting sick at times.

Bonds reiterated his appreciation of San Diego fans courteous treatment. Many around the country still consider his quest for Hammerin Hank s record to be tainted because of the suspicions Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs to get this far.

I think we all have so much respect for Hank Aaron, who s been the all-time home run king, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. He and Babe Ruth are legends: Here we have the guy who just tied him. You realize what just happened. It s a moment to celebrate. This man, what he accomplished last night is remarkable. That s a lot of home runs.

Commissioner Bud Selig was there to see it live, but made quite a statement by issuing a statement. Selig is close friends with Aaron, who began and ended his career in the commissioner s native Milwaukee.

No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds achievement is noteworthy and remarkable, Selig said, adding that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty.

Selig stood with his hands in his pockets as Bonds family and friends cheered during this long-awaited trot.

The seven-time NL MVP lifted his batboy son, 17-year-old Nikolai, into an embrace after crossing the plate but said yesterday, I m not doing that any more for sure.

I didn t see it, Bonds said of the commissioner s reaction. I didn t read anything yet. I just got here.

Selig attended the start of yesterday s game, then returned to Milwaukee.

Bonds hit the tying homer off a former Giants draft pick, Clay Hensley, who was suspended in 2005 for violating baseball s minor league steroids policy.

I don t think we re here to discuss those matters, Bonds said after he was told of Hensley s suspension.

Hensley sent to Triple-A

For Hensley, it was No. 755 and out. The San Diego Padres right-hander was optioned to Triple-A Portland yesterday.

The demotion had nothing to with Bonds historic shot. San Diego s bullpen was taxed after two straight extra-inning games, and the Padres needed a fresh arm, which it got by promoting right-hander Mike Thompson from the Portland Beavers.

At the very least, Hensley got a nice parting gift an autographed bat from Bonds.



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