|Bonds has an admirer in Cincinnati|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 02 July 2007 11:57|
Ken Griffey Jr. has always felt a kinship with the man chasing Hank Aaron's career record, now only five swings away. The two of them darted through big league clubhouses as kids, watching their famous fathers show them how it's done.
The bond will be renewed when they meet on Tuesday for the start a three-day series between Griffey's Cincinnati Reds and Bonds' San Francisco Giants.
``We don't battle each other,'' said Griffey, who has 585 career homers. ``You guys do all the comparisons in the media: who's better, who's this or that. To us, we're two sons playing a game that our dads played.''
They are two of the game's most engrossing players right now: Bonds closing in on Aaron's record, Griffey putting together one of his best seasons in many years. Both will start in the National League's All-Star outfield in San Francisco later this month.
In a sense, they've been together from the start.
``My first year in (Class) A ball, I had to go to the instructional league,'' Griffey said. ``I got to Arizona, and I didn't know anybody but one person: Barry. Barry called me and said, 'Hey, I'm coming to get you.' He took me out to eat and introduced me to a couple of his friends.''
The 37-year-old Griffey and the 42-year-old Bonds have kept in touch over the years. They catch up online about once a month, where the keyboard conversation tends to revolve around family and personal interests.
``Everything except baseball,'' Griffey said.
Come Tuesday, they might both be the talk of baseball.
Bonds is taking his record chase on the road for six games, visiting two cities known for historic homers. Aaron tied Babe Ruth's mark of 714 at now-demolished Riverfront Stadium on opening day in 1974. Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record in St. Louis in 1998.
Bonds has avoided talking about the record lately with the Giants stuck in last place in the NL West. He won't even talk about homers past.
Asked if he remembers his first homer, Bonds responded, ``Do I remember it? I don't. Not right now I don't. I don't even remember the baseball. Maybe one of these days I'll let you know.''
He's had only two moments worth talking about at Great American Ball Park, which is one of the major leagues' most homer-friendly places. In the ballpark's five years, Bonds is 5-for-26 (.192) with only two homers.
``Give him time,'' Reds first baseman Scott Hatteberg said. ``I don't want to see him catch up for lost time.''
Bonds hit No. 730 last Sept. 4 at Great American, and Griffey dislocated a toe on his right foot while trying to climb the padded wall to catch it. He also homered in the ballpark's inaugural season of 2003.
He seemed to like the old place better. Bonds hit 31 homers at Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field, the most by any opponent.
Bonds will have to get hot to do the same thing that Aaron did in Cincinnati - tie a record. He would have to hit five homers in three games, a daunting task. Bonds has 70 multihomer games, trailing Ruth's record by two, but rarely hits more than one per game these days.
In the last three years, Bonds has managed only a pair of two-homer games - last Aug. 28 in Atlanta and last April 13 at Pittsburgh.
The idea that he could hit five in Cincinnati seems far-fetched, even if manager Bruce Bochy lets him play all three games. The series includes a July 4 day game sandwiched between night games.
``We're getting close to the break, getting a lot of days off,'' Bochy said. ``If he's good to go, there's a good chance he'll be out there.''
His first chance will come against the Reds' best starter. Bonds is only 2-for-11 career off right-hander Aaron Harang with one homer.
``If he hits a homer, if he hits it at our place, great,'' Harang said. ``It's a huge record and nobody ever thought that record would be broken. It's going to be something special no matter where it happens.''
The Reds have a lot of other things on their mind these days besides Bonds. Manager Jerry Narron was fired after an 11-7 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday night left the Reds at 31-51, the worst record in the majors. Interim manager Pete Mackanin will take over for the Giants series.
None of the three games is close to a sellout, a sign of the public's apathy over a bad team.
Bonds' closest friend on the Reds hopes nothing historic happens during the series. Asked if he's looking forward to Bonds reaching the record, Griffey smiled.
``As long as he doesn't do it here,'' he said.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.