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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Bonds' ex-teammate admires, cheers for slugger
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published May 14, 2006
SEATTLE - Devil Rays closer Tyler Walker said he always has been a Barry Bonds fan.
He was a fan while attending University High School in San Francisco and Cal-Berkeley. He said he became even more of a fan during the two years he spent in the Giants organization.
"The greatest hitter I've ever seen," Walker said. "Until someone surpasses him, I'll believe that forever."
Walker, signed by the Giants as a free agent in November of 2003, had a front-row seat to the Barry Bonds experience until his trade to Tampa Bay on April 28.
Walker was in San Diego last month when someone in the stands threw a syringe at Bonds. He was in Los Angeles when he said Dodgers players told him they would rather their fans watch the game than abuse a rival player.
He said he also saw Bonds' apparently endless workout schedule. And he believes the criticism of Bonds, implicated in the BALCO steroids scandal while closing in on Babe Ruth's 714 home runs, is worse because of his skin color.
"Yeah, I think so," Walker said last week while standing at his locker at Safeco Field. "If it was Mark McGwire, I don't think it would be the same. I think he would be more cherished."
Then there is Bonds' relationship with reporters.
"They will always put him in a light that is not good," Walker said. "You look at the headlines that say he hit three home runs in a game. But they'll find something negative about him, about how he reacted after the game and put a negative spin on it. So he's battling the public and the media."
The allegations of steroid use?
"All that stuff doesn't matter to me," Walker said. "It's all speculation. You don't get to that level by doing steroids. You get to that level because of hard work, determination and God-given ability."
Walker said he first met Bonds working out at AT&T Park before the 2004 season.
He said Bonds' workouts always were intense and they continued into the season - before games, after games and even on off days.
"He knows there is no easy trick," Walker said. "There is no one thing you can do to make you better. He puts in the work."
And he takes the abuse.
On opening day in San Diego, an oversized syringe was thrown from the stands. In Los Angeles, Bonds was taunted with shouts of "cheater" and "Barry (expletive)" from the leftfield seats.
Walker said Dodgers players were upset.
"I talked to a couple of them and they were like, "This is so ridiculous. They're not even watching the game.' This whole deal, they're not even watching the baseball game which I think is pathetic. Come to the game to watch the players play."
Walker acknowledges he speaks somewhat from emotion. He played with Bonds and his ties go back to when he was a San Francisco kid who loved the Giants.
"I was a fan of his no matter what, and to play with him was an honor," Walker said. "He's such a gamer. He has so much stuff surrounding him. There is so much you hear about him. But when you see him before a game, after batting practice, you can tell the look in his eyes. He's ready to go.
"For a guy who has played that long and has so many at-bats, he still has the fire to compete."
CRAWFORD'S TAKE: Leftfielder Carl Crawford said he is staying away from the Bonds controversy, and isn't particularly following his pursuit of Hank Aaron's record of 755 homers.
"To be honest with you, I'm not really worried about it," he said. "If he gets the record, then that's fine. If he doesn't, then he doesn't. I'm not going to take either side of that."
Crawford acknowledged the harassment Bonds has endured since questions about possible steroids use surfaced.
"It's unfortunate," Crawford said. "People suspect certain things. But whether he did something bad or not, nobody should be treated like that, just because he's a human."