SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds returned to the ballpark and city he called "home" on Tuesday and was one of four members of the Giants' 2002 National League pennant-winning team to toss out a ceremonial first pitch just prior to Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park against the Phillies. "That was a tremendous feeling," Bonds, the former Giants left fielder and Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 762 home runs, told MLB.com. "This place has always felt like home to me. My father [Bobby Bonds] and my godfather [Willie Mays] played here. There's no better place in the world. This is home, man." Bonds, clearly elated, was the last of the four to be introduced behind Robb Nen, J.T. Snow and Shawon Dunston. He hopped out of the Giants' third-base dugout wearing his familiar No. 25 jersey, pumping his fists to a huge ovation, egging the sellout crowd on.
"The fans have always been great to me," he said. "You just don't know what you're missing until you've been away for a while. It brings chills up and down my spine." Bonds last played for the Giants at the end of the 2007 season, the same season in which he passed Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list. The 2002 Giants were the only team of the Bonds era to play in the World Series. Bonds hit .471, with four homers, six RBIs, eight runs scored and 13 walks -- seven of them intentional -- as the Giants lost to the Angels in seven games. His 2003 team lost to the Marlins in the first round of the playoffs and the Giants hadn't returned to the postseason until this year. Bonds makes intermittent appearances at AT&T Park on behalf of the Giants, but has been out of the game. He's scheduled to go to trial here beginning March 21 in a longstanding federal case in which he's charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. The charges stem from his 2003 testimony in front of a grand jury, regarding whether he told the truth about using performance-enhancing drugs as a player. He also added that he hoped to eventually return to the Giants as a hitting coach, much like his late father did in Bonds' early years with the club after signing as a free agent before the 1993 season. "Hopefully what I'm doing in private, personally with people, I can do full time here," Bonds said. "I just wish I was back in uniform. This is only half a uniform, so I guess that's good enough." And if the Giants defeat the Phillies and go to the World Series? "I'll be back," he said.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.