MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Bonds eyes encore as Marlins' hitting coach

All-time HR leader relishes role, open to return next season

Bonds eyes encore as Marlins' hitting coach

MIAMI -- Barry Bonds recently told a crowd of about 500 members of the SABR organization that he has so enjoyed his first year as the Miami Marlins' hitting coach that he'd love an encore.

"If they want me back [next season], I'll be back," Bonds said in wide-ranging interview, conducted for the group by MLB.com.

Bonds said he couldn't have conceived of acting as a full-time hitting coach this past offseason before Marlins owner Jeffry Loria called him about taking the job.

"Are you nuts?" Bonds told the crowd gathered in the stands behind home plate at Marlins Park, recalling his instant reaction.

Loria wound up hiring Don Mattingly as manager, and the former American League batting champion made his own call to Bonds about the job. Bonds reconsidered, and after an extensive interview, he signed a one-year contract.

Fernandez and Bonds joke around

The Marlins lead the National League in hitting with a .272 average, trailing only the Red Sox (.285) in the Major Leagues.

Loria said he wasn't ready to comment on Bonds' future, but he was pleased to know that he is eager to return.

Mattingly and Bonds, two of the most prolific hitters in recent baseball history, have changed the club's culture in one season. Losers of 91 games a year ago, Miami is in the thick of the NL Wild Card chase.

Bonds has often said that he returned to coaching full-time to honor his late father, Bobby Bonds, and his godfather, Willie Mays. All three played for the Giants.

"My dad was the best hitting coach I've ever had," said Bonds, whose father served in that capacity when he signed with the Giants in 1993 as a free agent and Dusty Baker became the manager.

Bonds on return to San Francisco

Bobby was hired by Baker to work specifically with Barry, who batted .298 in his 22-year career and won NL batting titles near the end of it in 2002 and '04.

When Bonds came to work this Spring Training at the Marlins' camp in Jupiter, Fla., he wasn't sure whether he could handle the routine of being back to baseball on a day-to-day basis, plus the demanding travel schedule of a 162-game season. He'd been out of the game since playing his last season in 2007.

But Bonds has found the work gratifying and has had some success with individual players.

Marcell Ozuna, for one, was a designated project for Bonds and Mattingly, starting back in February. Ozuna hit 23 homers and posted a .269/.317/.455 line in 2014, his first full season, before losing his power stroke in a 2015 season (10 homers, .383 slugging percentage) that included a demotion to the Minors.

Loria was so annoyed he told the pair he wanted to get rid of Ozuna, but Bonds and Mattingly prevailed on the owner to give them a chance at resurrecting Ozuna.

Ozuna has turned his career around, posting a .298/.352/.514 line and earning a trip to the All-Star Game. The secret of that success?

"We had to get him to believe himself again," Bonds said. "The process of baseball is like trying to figure out a puzzle. It took me 22 years to figure it out. I'm still trying to figure it out. He came to me every day. There's no quick fix. You need to communicate and build a bond."

Ozuna's four-hit game

Equally, when Giancarlo Stanton was suffering through a slump earlier in the season, Bonds found the Los Angeles native to be nearly unreachable. He was too far off the plate and had a bad habit of waving his bat near his head when he swings.

"He created a monster by wrapping his hand around his ear," Bonds said. "Still, he hits the ball farther than me."

Stanton batted .173 for the month of May with four homers. Bonds said Stanton had to figure out his own personal puzzle. In July, he raked, posting .992 OPS. And, by the way, he put on a colossal show at Petco Park, winning this year's T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

"I love that guy," Bonds said about Stanton. "It's hard to play with the pressure of that kind of salary and expectations. He has a great attitude and always wants to get better. He never wants his teammates to see him down."

Bonds will be happy enough to watch Stanton evolve for at least one more season.

Barry M. Bloom is a 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.