Barry Bonds made his big return to the baseball scene as a special instructor for the San Francisco Giants earlier this month. Now he's scheduled to make his first notable non-playing appearance back in front of the fans in Pittsburgh (where his major league career began in 1986) when he presents Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen with his National League MVP award on Monday.
Bonds will be joined for the ceremony by another Pirates legend and a member of their 1960 World Series championship team, Dick Groat. Long-time Pirates manager Jim Leyland will also be on hand to present Clint Hurdle with his Manager of the Year award, but the big news is Bonds' return to Pittsburgh.
Bonds obviously has some fences to mend in a city where he became public enemy No. 1 long before he was suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs or investigated for his involvement with BALCO. He bolted town following their emotional 1992 season that ended dramatically in Atlanta in Game 7 of the NLCS, signing a then-record six-year, $43.75 million contract with the San Francisco Giants.
The city felt betrayed, and the organization was left to rebuild. A process that would take 21 years before they would achieve a winning record or play in another postseason game. But that's part of what makes the timing of his return so interesting. It's almost as if Bonds and the Pirates organization are coming full circle together, and it all centers around McCutchen, who has become the undisputed face of the franchise after winning the team's first MVP award since Bonds did it in 1992.
For Bonds, it's an opportunity to step out and reconnect with the fanbase that once adored him. Whether or not they'll be accepting is yet to be determined, but he's definitely taking the proper steps by accepting Pittsburgh's invitation. For the Pirates, it closes the door on two decades of misery, while opening the door to doing business with one of their biggest legends at a time when baseball in Pittsburgh is hitting its stride again.
Regardless of how you feel about Bonds or the Pirates decision, it makes sense for both sides. The timing is right, and it's nice to see everybody put whatever hard feelings that remained aside to create what should be a special moment for McCutchen on Monday.
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