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Years ago, before Barry Bonds set Major League Baseball’s all-time home runs record for the San Francisco Giants, he was playing baseball at ASU.

He returned to his alma mater on Tuesday.

“It’s special,” Bonds said. “Any time you get to come back to your alma mater, it’s awesome. Nothing better than that.”

Bonds played at Packard Stadium, long before the Sun Devils moved into their current home, Phoenix Municipal Stadium. A grin lit up Bonds’ face when he was asked about ASU’s campus and facilities.

“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” he said, chuckling. “This is better than some major league stadiums. Their locker room? We had a trailer when I was going to school here.”

Bonds was a seven-time Most Valuable Player and 14-time All-Star in his 22-year career with the Pirates and Giants. He recorded 762 home runs. He hit more than 40 home runs in a season eight different times. With ASU, he was a Sporting News All-American in 1985.

But just as it’d be malpractice to ignore Bonds’ accolades, it’s clear that Bonds’ career has been peppered with less-than-flattering narratives — both in his involvement in baseball’s infamous steroid scandal and in his alleged friction with his Sun Devil teammates.

Bonds said he still loves baseball.

“Yeah, it’s just better in the seats,” he said, laughing. “Not on the field. I don’t have that kind of love anymore. But in the seats, I love it, it’s great.”

A video played on the stadium’s scoreboard to honor Bonds’ achievements. Bonds and the Sun Devil players sat in the dugout and quietly watched. Then, Bonds was welcomed to the field to throw out the first pitch.

He accepted a framed ASU jersey, then exited while giving handshakes and hugs to many Sun Devils.

Bonds also said he thinks it behooves players to attend college before turning pro.

“I think college is way better than getting drafted out of high school,” he said. “I don’t think you’re ready. I didn’t do it, I don’t really recommend it. I think the life obstacles that you need to go through and just growing with the game itself, I think college experience is the way to go.

“Unless you’re exceptional,” he added.

Bonds was exceptional — according to the numbers, at least. Controversy or not, his famed career all began years before he was embroiled in a public sandal. And that genesis happened in Tempe.

 

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