Bonds has kind words for McGwire

SAN FRANCISCO -- Home run king Barry Bonds said Sunday he is "proud" of Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire for admitting his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

"I have a really good friendship with Mark McGwire. I'm proud of him," the 45-year-old Bonds, back in the Bay Area for a reunion at AT&T Park of the Giants' 2000 NL West champion team, said when asked what he thought of McGwire's January admission. "We've had a great relationship throughout our entire lives and throughout our career. I'm proud of what he did. I'm happy for him."

While Bonds didn't rule out also going into coaching one day, his six-minute session with the media was stopped after the question about McGwire.

Earlier this year, McGwire ended more than a decade of denials and evasion and finally acknowledged he used steroids and human growth hormone during his career, including in 1998 when he hit 70 home runs and broke the single-season record.

Bonds, who topped that mark when he hit 73 homers in 2001, has long denied ever knowingly using steroids or performance-enhancers in his pursuit of the career home run record -- arguably the most prized record in all of American sports.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied in 2003 to a federal grand jury investigating BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, and obstructed justice.

McGwire was told of Bonds' comments in Milwaukee, where the Cardinals were playing the Brewers.

"It's very cool. Barry is a great player, was a great player in this game, many MVPs," McGwire said. "The guy could do it all. It makes me feel really good. It's really cool to be back in the game. ... I'm a big boy, I understand that things happen in your life and you've got to confront them, and you also have to move on from them and learn from them."

Bonds' perjury case is still pending -- he is still under indictment and awaiting trial. In September the government filed an appeal of the judge's decision to exclude much of the evidence against him and is awaiting a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A ruling is expected sometime in the next couple of months.

Bonds said Sunday he doesn't believe now is the right time to retire -- though he also insists he's not in shape to play immediately if an interested club came calling.

"I don't have any plans at all," he said of trying to play again. "No, it's not necessary at the moment [to retire]. The timing isn't that important."

Bonds arrived separately -- and more than an hour later -- from other members of the 2000 team and walked hand in hand with 11-year-old daughter Aisha.

"This is weird. Where are the big guys?" Rich Aurilia asked of Bonds and Jeff Kent, whose flight was delayed because of bad weather.

Bonds, dressed in a dark pinstriped suit and orange paisley tie, had a heavy security presence around him of police officers and ballpark officials.

It was a flashback to a few years earlier, when Bonds was trailed everywhere by reporters and fans. On Sunday, he signed some 15 autographs on his way into the ballpark, then was driven around on an electric cart. He disappeared into a freight elevator to be taken to the reception with his former teammates.

"They got me in a freight elevator. That's the first time," the slugger said, sporting a huge smile.

Bonds later got in the broadcast booth.

This winter in Florida, he worked with Phillies slugger Ryan Howard on his swing.

"I coached him a little bit and he's doing very, very well and hasn't said one thing about me yet," Bonds said with a chuckle. "But I love him and I'm glad he's doing well."

He appeared to be in great shape and said he is down to about 225 pounds from his playing weight of 238.

"I've just been working out a lot, that's all. I work out all the time," Bonds said. "It's been in my genes my whole life. I just don't work out as hard anymore. I don't lift as heavy weights anymore to be bulky. I don't know, I've got that Hollywood look."

The seven-time NL MVP broke Hank Aaron's home run record on Aug. 7, 2007, and has 762 career round-trippers. Bonds has made only a handful of public appearances in San Francisco since the Giants decided not to bring him back following that special 2007 season.

Bonds isn't sure what he would do if a team called him to play now, saying, "I would have to work out a little harder to give you any formal consideration."

"It goes by quick. The sports world eventually comes to an end," Bonds said. "Your body can only do so much. Just be grateful for the time you have. I'm very grateful. ... I'm thankful."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.