SAN DIEGO (AP) -They packed into the right field stands, hoping a $27 ticket might be worth a college education or maybe even the down payment on a new condo. The drawing for the California lottery isn't until Saturday night, but fans at Petco Park had a chance to cash in early with Barry Bonds in town.
Many came early to try to catch a batting practice home run from him. Those with seats elsewhere eyed security warily, looking for a way they might sneak back in when Bonds came to bat.
They were there to catch a prized souvenir, maybe make enough to pay off their debts. A few were baseball purists, others were just trying to make a buck.
In the middle of it all was Scott Starkweather, glove in hand and a mission in mind.
He and his family were in Southern California on vacation from Orange City, Iowa, where Starkweather makes about $50,000 a year as a guidance counselor at Moc Floydvalley Middle School. His job is to help shape the minds and morals of children who will enter adulthood about the same time Bonds tries to enter the Hall of Fame.
His brother had gotten them tickets months ago and, while heading for the game, he talked with sons Brady and Trevor and daughter Jena about what they might witness this night. They, too, saw opportunity in the right field stands, but for reasons far different from most.
``We talked about it on the way down from LA that maybe one thing we could do was to do something for others,'' Starkweather said. ``Sometimes in the world we live in it's all about me. We don't want to be trapped in that world.''
Starkweather wasn't referring directly to Bonds, though a case could certainly be made that the slugger might be the most egocentric athlete on earth. He wasn't going to pass judgment on Bonds, either.
Besides, he had something bigger in mind.
``Instead of having the money I'd like to send a message,'' he said. ``If you knew her you'd know why I'm doing it.''
She is Sue Richardson, the wife of a school superintendent back home who has been battling breast cancer for most of the past 11 years. Her struggle against the disease has been an inspiration not only to Starkweather, but to a lot of people in his hometown.
``She's unbelievably positive about it and she's been through almost every chemo and drug therapy and keeps on ticking,'' Starkweather said. ``She's brought a lot of hope to other people who have cancer. She's inspired a lot of other people on how to live their lives.''
Starkweather's teenage sons stood next to him, intently watching batting practice, but it was clear they were in on this deal, too.
The plan was to try to overcome the odds, catch home run No. 755 or 756 amid a sea of fans with similar intentions, and make it pay off. In this case, that meant either selling the ball and donating the proceeds to breast cancer or giving it to Bonds and having him write a sizable check to the cause.
This was just something they had to do if given a chance.
``Her story is one I wish people around the country could hear about the power of positive thinking,'' he said. ``I really think the message I send would be worth more than the money for me.''
The money certainly isn't insignificant. Collectors say the record-tying home run could bring six figures, and No. 756 could be worth up to $500,000.
That's the reason others in the right field stands paid $100 and up for tickets costing $27 on a normal night. They, too, held gloves, talked about being in the right place at the right time, and dreamed of what they could do with the money the ball would surely bring.
Bonds himself has no qualms about the holder of the ball getting everything he or she can.
``I had a little kid come up to me and say he would give it back to me,'' Bonds said the other day in Los Angeles. ``I said, `Are you stupid? You'd have more money than your parents.' ``
Starkweather isn't stupid. He just thinks differently than baseball's millionaires and their much poorer fans.
The way he sees it, it's the least he can do for a friend who keeps battling.
``She deserves it,'' he said.
----
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org

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