|Bonds' close-knit group remains supportive of indicted slugger|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 05 December 2007 13:35|
They could be counted on for the mundane: fetching the slugger snacks and water, or escorting him through the gaggle of media watching him chase Hank Aaron's home run record.
And for more weighty matters, there was Dr. Arthur Ting, Bonds' personal surgeon. He would accompany the former San Francisco Giants star and an array of other assistants and advisers to the BALCO steroids lab and draw blood for testing.
Despite his often-prickly public persona - to outsiders and even teammates - the 43-year-old home run king has inspired loyalty from some members of his inner circle, who are standing by Bonds as he prepares to make his first appearance in federal court Friday.
Bonds is expected to plead not guilty to perjury and obstruction of justice.
``He's a good dude who has been in a bad spot,'' said one of the trainers, Greg Oliver.
Others say Bonds demands undying loyalty from members of the entourage and is quick to ostracize those he sees as doing anything to undermine him. Just last week, Bonds' longtime business attorney, Laura Enos, was ordered to stop talking to the press after she disclosed that Bonds was shopping for a new attorney.
``I'm on thin ice,'' she said.
Bonds reported his childhood friend and former business partner, Steve Hoskins, to the FBI in 2003 after the two had a falling out over memorabilia sales. Now Hoskins, the best man at Bonds' first wedding and the slugger's former business partner, is expected to be a key witness if the case against Bonds goes to trial.
So is his former longtime girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, who testified before a grand jury that Bonds told her of his steroid use.
Those close to Bonds say he's relying on the advice of his inner circle as he shops for an attorney with extensive federal experience to help him fight the four felony counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Bonds' business manager interviewed attorney George Walker over dinner on Bonds' behalf.
Even Bonds' current defense lawyer, Michael Rains, who lacks that kind of federal experience, came to Bonds through these personal connections.
Childhood friend Dan Molieri, a former South San Francisco police officer, introduced Bonds to Rains, a former cop himself who had made a career out of representing police officers accused of misconduct.
Those that remain by Bonds' side defend him as being unfairly targeted by federal prosecutors eager to make political gains at the expense of an unpopular player.
``They're only after one person is what it seems like,'' Oliver said.
Another of Bonds' trainers, Greg Anderson, spent a year in prison for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Bonds. But his lawyers have said that had more to do with prosecutors reneging on a deal struck with Anderson than with any sense of loyalty to Bonds.
Anderson might still be summoned to testify at trial, but his lawyers say he's prepared to go back to jail rather than cooperate with prosecutors.
For many years, Bonds got special treatment in the clubhouse.
His personal trainers were partly paid by the Giants. Oliver and Harvey Shields even had their own lockers until last season, when the Bonds' new one-year deal barred them from restricted areas of the ballpark.
Shields in particular was always at the slugger's beck and call, jumping at any request.
Over the years, some teammates acknowledged being uncomfortable with their presence.
When Bonds broke the 33-year-old mark on Aug. 7 with his 756th homer, his publicists and trainers were at the top of the dugout tunnel, alongside Bonds' wife and children, to greet him as he left the game.
``We're a tight-knit group,'' Oliver said. ``Hopefully this whole thing will blow over.''
Rumors of Bonds' alleged drug use have plagued him for years, but he has steadfastly denied having knowingly used steroids or other performance enhancers.
Testifying before a federal grand jury in December 2003, he famously said he thought Anderson was giving him flaxseed oil and an arthritic balm. Authorities suspected those substances were actually ``the clear'' and ``the cream,'' two steroids linked to BALCO.
But Oliver, the trainer, credits hard work for Bonds' stunning transformation from a skinny, speedy outfielder to a muscle-bound power hitter.
``I believe he's been totally up front and honest that everything has been on his natural ability,'' said Oliver, who testified before the commission headed by former Sen. George Mitchell that is investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. ``He's still the hardest-working athlete I've ever seen.''
Associated Press Writer Paul Elias contributed to this report.