Barry Bittersweet

‘You’re going the wrong way buddy,’ Barry Bonds liverishly told me at the foot of the Sherman Oaks Galleria escalator in anticipation of his first step.

As I took a second look at his withered body to realize it was him, brushback lines zipped through my head like the 98-mile per hour fastballs he once crushed at a record rate.

I asked myself, should I retaliate with the four-seamer high and tight and say, ‘Hey Barry, in town for Jeff Kent’s retirement dinner?’ or the curveball and ask if he wanted me to hook him up with a job at Macy’s.

Fearing I would get needled with a pointy object for such a remark, I went with neither and rather, just Petros Papadakis-ly said ‘Barry!!’ as he turned the corner.

‘Don’t be screaming my name out like that,’ he told me as he scanned the floor, only to turn his back.

As he began to limp forward, I couldn’t help but size up the one-time behemoth that once had arms the size of tree logs, shoulders that spread out to different time zones and that elephantine of a head.

It was as glaring as ever that Bonds’ girthy body had left him just as he did baseball in October 2007 – a probable byproduct of laying off the ‘clear’ and the ‘cream’ substances he once testified about to a U.S. grand jury four years back.

Wanting to pick the brain of the All-Time home run king and actually contemplating whether he would have a one-on-one sit down with me at Wetzel’s Pretzels, I remembered the anchorite’s reputation with people who even cared to talk to him ‘- let alone about tainting baseball, lying under oath and steroid use.

After all, this is the guy who held press conferences as if it were a State of the Union address only to go and blame the media for his knee surgery.

Considering I had a better chance of seeing Kent and Bonds ridesharing on a Harley then going Walter Cronkite on him, I did what no man in Los Angeles has ever done to him:’ Be nice. It was a reverse psychology I partook onto the pertinacious Bonds, who yet again was fully aloof.

While desperately trying to hold a straight face and speaking in somewhat of a non-sarcastic tone, I brought up how he would be the ideal candidate to fill the Dodgers’ void in left field and a far better replacement than Manny Ramirez could ever be.

After all, he is owner of *762′ home runs, five Most Valuable Player awards and, still, one massive forehead. In response to my suggestion, he smiled, perhaps assuming I might be one in need of Baseball Digest.

‘No,’ he simply said while swinging his newly-bought luggage from one hand to the other. ‘The Dodgers are better off with Manny Ramirez.’

‘C’mon Barry,’ I needled back, being dumbfounded that someone unemployed in today’s economy would turn down a job. ‘I want to cheer you on from the left field pavilion with all your other fans.’

Realizing the chances of Old Faithful playing home games for the Dodgers were as good as Michael Vick running a Pitbull at the National Dog Show, I gave Bonds a personal Spring Training invite.

He again shook his head in disagreement, in doing so, declining millions and the opportunity of once again setting up the royal perks of a leather recliner, a personal masseur and his own television set ‘- in the’ locker room, as he did in his years in San Francisco.

He was still recuperating from hip surgery, a procedure he took in hopes of someday playing baseball and noticeably looked well below his playing weight ‘- a clear sign he is no longer on the cream diet.

It’s not that Bonds did not want to play for the Dodgers, rather, it looked as if the 44-year-old’ couldn’t , even if he tried.

Just imagine Bonds wearing blue while playing the outfield grass at Dodger Stadium. Kobe Bryant has better odds of spending a night at The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera hotel in Eagle than Bonds does penciled in at clean-up for Joe Torre.

Not wanting to prolong the pain of conversation any longer, he graciously posed for a picture at my request ‘- a monumental feat accomplished on my part considering the guy didn’t even pose for team photos years back.

As we shook hands and departed, he threw his bag over his shoulder, put his croc shoes to motion and walked towards the parking garage.

He left the building unapproached, without ceremony and unnoticed, a carbon copy of his backdoor exit from baseball.