SAN FRANCISCO -- This time, he says there will be no change of heart. Barry Bonds said in an exclusive interview Friday that he's intent on playing next season, preferably with the Giants, but elsewhere in the Major Leagues if his hometown team decides not to bring him back. "I want to continue playing baseball, there's no doubt about it in my mind," Bonds said before Friday night's game against the division-rival Padres at AT&T Park. "My preference would be to stay home, but I don't have any control of that. We'll see what happens, what the future will bring."
Bonds statement ends months of speculation about his future. He said he made the decision during the All-Star break, but he is now comfortable talking about it after he received a respite -- however interim -- from his legal problems Thursday when U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan announced that his office hadn't sought an indictment against Bonds on the day the grand jury investigating the matter expired. Next week, a new grand jury is expected to again start reviewing possible charges of perjury and tax evasion against Bonds within the scope of a wider steroids probe. But the federal government must resubmit all the evidence and testimony already presented to two grand juries that have indicted five individuals involved in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal. The panel has an 18-month shelf life and all that will take some time to digest. "I wasn't worried about it before and I'm not worried about it now," Bonds said. Thus, Bonds, who turns 42 on Monday, can now begin preparing mentally and physically to come back next year and make a concerted run at Hank Aaron's all-time home run record of 755. After his eighth-inning homer Thursday night, Bonds has 722 homers, 11 shy of Aaron's National League mark of 733 and 33 short of the all-time mark. Bonds is also within hailing distance of 3,000 hits and 2,000 runs batted in. He went into Friday night's action with 2,794 hits and 1,897 RBIs. He has played for the Giants since 1993 when he left the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent and is now in the final months of a five-year, $90 million contract. He can become a free agent again at the end of the postseason, but he said so far he isn't even considering that possibility. "I can't think about anything like that until you're in the position that you have to do what you have to do," Bonds said. "No player can." The Giants, for their part, have said that they won't make a decision about bringing back Bonds until the end of the season, and they remained true to that stance Friday.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.