Giants pay tribute to former ballgirl Busch

Giants pay tribute to former ballgirl Busch

Giants pay tribute to former ballgirl Busch
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds gestured toward a Jumbotron-size photograph of a teenage girl, clad in a Giants cap and full uniform, sitting on the top step of AT&T Park's home dugout while resting a bat on her left shoulder and gazing longingly toward home plate.

"That's who I saw," Bonds said, sharing his enduring image of Alexis Busch.

Bonds joined a crowd of approximately 500 that gathered at the ballpark on Monday for an hourlong memorial service to celebrate the life of Busch, a former Giants batgirl who lost her life in a yacht-racing accident at the Farallon Islands outside San Francisco on April 14.

"We only had her for a short time, but we had her for a good time," Bonds said.

Bonds spoke on behalf of the 2000 and 2001 clubs, for which Busch served as the Major Leagues' first batgirl, but it wasn't that distinction that will define her among her friends, relatives and loved ones. Rather it was her charisma and buoyant spirit that will endure.

Comedian and political satirist Will Durst said that Busch personified "elan" -- that singular combination of energy, enthusiasm and style.

As the tributes demonstrated, Busch's personality inevitably emerged through her love for the Giants. Larry Baer, the club's president and CEO, said that Busch eclipsed the great Willie Mays in one respect.

"Willie was a Giant for 22 years," Baer said. "Alex was a Giant for 26 years -- her entire life. ... The Giants were and will be Alexis' second family forever."

Erik Berkowitz, a drama professor at Redwood High School, recalled the first time he met Busch, who was sporting a slightly oversize Giants jacket, a Giants T-shirt and matching Giants wristbands. The more he got to know her, the more engaging she was.

Said Berkowitz: "I remember thinking, 'Who is this girl who's so committed to the Giants? And she is so bold, kooky and funny.'"

Busch was certainly bold and unintentionally funny during an encounter years ago with Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, who calls others "Meat" -- which can be a term of affection or derision, depending on the situation.

As the daughter of Corey Busch, the Giants' former executive vice president, Alexis spent a large portion of her formative years at the team's previous home, Candlestick Park, so she crossed paths with Krukow often. One day she asked him, "How come you never call me 'Meat'?"

Krukow responded, "Because you're a girl."

Replied an agitated Busch, "I'm not a girl. I'm a ballplayer."

She definitely felt at home with the players, despite the initial novelty of the gender difference.

"We loved her," said Bonds, baseball's all-time home run leader, who was greeted at the plate by Busch after he hit his 500th homer. "I don't think any of us knew what to expect or how to handle it. But Alexis made us feel at ease."

So comfortable were the Giants with Busch that she received the ultimate sign of respect and appreciation: a nickname. Shawon Dunston dubbed her "Mary Beth," since that name suited the players' image of her as a younger sister.

Baer related a story on Monday, about advice that Busch gave Dunston while he was mired in a batting slump.

"You should play like Barry or Jeff [Kent]," Busch told him

Dunston contemplated this for a moment before saying, simply, "You're right, Mary Beth."

Busch enjoyed a special kinship with Bonds, who could be standoffish. Bonds, who walked gingerly to the lectern due to recent back surgery, remembered Busch asking him, "Why does everyone say that stuff about you?"

As Bonds related on Monday, "[I said], 'Alexis, [when] you [go] to a concert, did you ever see the performer come out first?' She said, 'No.' I said, 'I'm like that. I make everybody wait and anticipate.'"

Toward the conclusion of the event, Chris Busch, Alexis' brother, thanked the audience.

"Alex would unquestionably be blushing at the outpouring of love and attention for her," he said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.