SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -The people flocking to San Francisco's waterfront ballpark for a shot at catching Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball can improve their odds by studying the habits of Larry Ellison.
T Park and into McCovey Cove - like 34 of Bonds' 754 career homers - there's a good chance Ellison will get it.
The 56-year-old software salesman (no relation to the identically named Oracle Corp. CEO) has demonstrated his paddling prowess by grabbing two of Bonds' milestone homers from his kayak.
On April 12, 2004, Ellison snatched No. 660 - the home run that tied Bonds' godfather, Willie Mays for third place all-time. When Bonds passed Mays with his 661st homer the next day, Ellison scooped that one up, too.
Ellison gave No. 660 back to Bonds, receiving tickets and memorabilia in exchange. But he sold No. 661 for $17,000.
Bonds is currently one shy of tying Aaron's record after a soaring drive over the wall in left-center Friday.
Home run ball No. 756 likely will fetch $400,000 to $500,000 at auction, said rare collectibles expert David Kohler, president of SCP Auctions, which handled the February sale of a Honus Wagner baseball card for $2.35 million.
That estimate might not seem like a lot: The ball Mark McGwire hit to break Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998 sold for $3 million. Bonds later shattered that record, hitting 73 in 2001, but that ball was auctioned for $450,000.
Kohler said the hysteria that surrounded McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's '98 home run chase is absent here. ``And with the allegations of steroids, obviously Barry is not well loved by a lot of baseball fans,'' he said.
There's also the fact that No. 756 probably won't remain the record ball. The 43-year-old Bonds is almost certain to hit more this season, and the slugger repeatedly has said he will play in 2008.
Kohler said he expects Bonds' final career home-run ball to sell for upward of $1 million, and each ball in between could garner about $100,000.
Now that Bonds has pulled within one of the record, boat traffic in the cove is expected to increase dramatically. And Ellison will be among the crowd.
If he gets the ball, don't call it luck.
Ellison watches every pitch on a laptop computer that he's attached to his orange kayak, which is emblazoned with a Giants logo. He also listens to the radio broadcast.
``It's knowing where he's likely to hit it,'' Ellison said Thursday from his home in suburban Fairfield. ``People are pitching him outside these days. If they pitch him inside, I'm going to move toward first base. Outside I move more right of center, as far as the cove goes.''
And Ellison will be working without a net.
``With a net, you have to put paddle down, and you lose mobility,'' Ellison said. ``For 661, another kayaker got close to me and missed the ball with his net. He went past it, and I swooped in behind him.''
The technique has allowed Ellison to snag five ``splash hit'' game balls. Because Bonds has hit only one game ball into the cove this season, his record-breaker likely will stay inside the stadium, as did No. 754. The Giants planned to limit the amount of traffic allowed on the right field arcade and will issue wristbands to ticketholders to help maintain the crowds.
Sometimes, all the preparations in the world can't overcome a bit of luck. Andrew Morbitzer was standing in line for a beer and peanuts when Bonds hit No. 715 to pass Babe Ruth for second all-time. After landing on an elevated platform, it rolled off the roof and into Morbitzer's hand.
So there's no confusion about which ball is the record-breaker, Major League Baseball has begun swapping balls for each Bonds at-bat. The balls are identified by a numbering system, and each one has a special hologram.
If he gets it, Ellison said he would rent the ball to the Hall of Fame and the Giants for a time, then sell it. Fan Mike Reich, who bought tickets for a several games this week in the hopes of being the lucky one, said he would offer the ball to the Giants for a reasonable price.
``I would hope they would give me season tickets for life,'' he said.

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