SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -The game was still an hour and a half away and the man who will be the home run king was sitting in his private enclave in the Giants' clubhouse, head in hands and watching his personal flat-panel TV.
On the screen was the man who might well be the home run king himself someday. And while this was a day when Barry Bonds and most of baseball were fixated on one number, Alex Rodriguez was just one big swing away from his own pretty important number.
``Are they working in special balls for A-Rod?'' Bonds asked to no one in particular.
He didn't have to wait long for an answer. Clustered around the locker were a dozen or so reporters, happy to say yes and even happier to have a little interaction with the slugger.
Bonds seemed pretty happy himself, though his mood would later change after another day of futility at the plate. The night before he had been blanked by Dontrelle Willis and the Florida Marlins, but this was another day, and a beautiful one at that, in the Bay Area.
``We're all watching TV,'' Bonds said. ``We're all here together having a slumber party.''
T Park, one Giant party was going on. The final day of the homestand was also Bonds' last chance to tie or break perhaps the most celebrated record in sports, and many of the 42,965 who would cram their way inside were hanging around enjoying a few moments before the game.
Working near the statue of Willie Mays, some ticket scalpers were offering free ice cream samples to lure buyers. Underneath the statue, a man was handing out copies of a newsletter blaming everyone but the tooth fairy for causing Bonds troubles.
``Stop the attacks on Barry Bonds,'' he yelled.
On this day, in this park, no one was attacking Bonds. They stood and cheered when his name was announced in the starting lineup, and stood and cheered for every at-bat.
That's not likely to happen for a while. The Giants head down south to face their hated rivals, the Dodgers, and the love Bonds was soaking up along with the sun will be replaced by venom, and plenty of it, beginning Tuesday night at Chavez Ravine.
That's the way it always is for Bonds on the road, and that's the reason the general consensus is that he will break Henry Aaron's all-time home run mark after the team returns from its six-game trip to Los Angeles and San Diego.
Though Bonds didn't seem too concerned about it, at least one of his teammates believes even Dodger fans should cheer the moment when and if it comes.
``I think if it does happen and Henry's record is eclipsed, I think you take a big step back and enjoy the moment and appreciate the history,'' Dave Roberts said. ``Then go back to your boos. But I think there should be a moment that, regardless of what ballpark it happens in, everyone should be fortunate enough to realize what just transpired.''
Roberts patrols center field for the Giants so he has an up close and personal look at Bonds on most days. On Sunday he and Bonds met near the 382-foot sign in left center field while chasing a double in the gap, and soon he hopes to get Bonds to sign the No. 25 jersey he plans to keep in his collection.
And then there's the matter of the dream he had a few months ago. In it, Roberts was on base when Bonds hit No. 756, a place he intends to be when it actually happens.
And what did he do?
``I jumped up in his arms and gave him a big hug,'' Roberts said.
Bonds could have used a hug after this lost weekend. He raised everyone's expectations, including his own, after breaking out of a slump to hit one out over the left center-field fence in the first inning Friday night. But he was hitless after that until his popup fell near the mound in his final at-bat Sunday and he got a charitable single.
The good mood from earlier had evaporated by the time this one was over, and Bonds made his obligatory quick escape from the clubhouse.
He should have stuck around awhile. On the field, children of all ages were running the bases, arms flailing in the air as they rounded second and headed toward third. The Giants also have a promotion where kids have an overnight slumber party on the outfield grass, but Bonds and the reporters who cover him aren't invited.
Bonds may have disappointed their parents by not making history at home this weekend, but the kids didn't seem to care.
The gleeful look on their faces was a reminder that this is just a game and there will be another day.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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