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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2002-08-31

CLICK: Behind the Scenes with Barry Bonds
By Deanne Fitzmaurice, San Francisco Chronicle

Photo by Andy Kuno/SF Giants

Photo by Andy Kuno/SF Giants

Deanne Fitzmaurice
(Editor's note- How many times have we done a picture story on a high school or college athlete, or maybe a minor league baseball player. It's fun and sometimes easy as we have the great access in the locker room, team bus, etc. How often have we wondered how fun it would be to get the chance to tell the behind-the-scenes story of a big-time pro athlete? Of course most pro athletes would never let a photographer hang around on the road and at home on days off. Especially someone as notorious as the Giants' Barry Bonds. Until now. Deanne Fitzmaurice recently pulled off a miracle and documented Bonds' private life on the road and at home as he approached the 600 home run milestone earlier this month. Following is her story.)

With Barry Bonds at 586 career home runs, I arrive early at the game I am covering and park myself in the dugout, hoping he will stop and talk as he walks out to the field for batting practice.

I position myself so he has to walk right past me to get to the field. He strolls out, picks up a bat and stops next to me. I am thinking, OK he is about to club me for endlessly stalking him or maybe, just maybe I'll get a chance to ask him again. He greets me and asks how I'm doing. I figure this is my chance.

So I take a deep breath and make my pitch. "Barry, I want to photograph your life as you approach 600 home runs," I say. "We all know who you are as a ballplayer, but we don't know who you are as a person, and I want to show that through my pictures. This is a historic moment that needs to be documented. Someday in the future you are going to want a record of this as will your children."

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Bonds relaxes in the Giants' clubhouse in his famous chair with his personal strength and conditioning trainer, Harvey Shields.
He looks at me for a moment, then says, "OK."

I say, "Did you just say OK?" and he replies, "Yes, but wait till I get a couple more home runs." I start thinking, "Oh yeah, the photo gods are with me today!"

I call my photo editors at the Chronicle and say, "Listen, Bonds just agreed to let me photograph him!" I tell them I don't know if he really meant it and I don't know if he'll change his mind, but it looks good. Word travels to the sports editor, who is cautiously optimistic but holds two full inside pages in the souvenir edition for the photos that I am allegedly going to come up with.

Now the pressure is on. I've got to come through. My editors tell me to take whatever time I need to accomplish this impossible feat. They are 100 percent supportive, taking me off the daily schedule so I can concentrate on Bonds and the games.

It wasn't like this just came up out of nowhere-I actually began talking with Bonds earlier this season. It started at Spring Training in Arizona. When Bonds first arrived at camp, I saw him reclining on the field, resting his head on some equipment bags. I shot a frame and he looked over at me, but it felt like he glared at me. I thought, "Oh boy, here we go. I am going to have to go through all of spring training and probably the whole season for that matter, not knowing if he was going to glare at me for shooting his picture."

He has a reputation for not always being fond of photographers and the media. I must have been feeling brave that day because I walked up to him and said "So Barry, do you have a problem with me shooting your picture?" I was laughing a little when I said it, probably out of sheer nervousness.

He thought for a moment then said "No, I don't. What's your name anyway, and who do you shoot for?" Maybe he was in shock that a photographer came up to talk to him; whatever the reason, it broke the ice. After that he would occasionally stop and talk to me during spring training.

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Barry and his dog Clyde in the kitchen at the Bonds home.
Later, when the regular season started and I was shooting a game, I brought him a couple of pictures that I shot during spring training. One was a picture of him pitching a ball to his daughter, Aisha, 3, to bat with a plastic bat and the other was of him sitting with his godfather, Willie Mays. We ended up chatting for 15 or 20 minutes. I am thinking, "Hey you should be practicing batting right now," but who am I to tell Bonds to practice batting?

He is in a talkative mood and starts telling me about his family, and he ends up telling me a good story about how he and his wife, Liz, were sweethearts early on, he married someone else, then divorced and met up with Liz again and married her. I was surprised at how open he was.

I said that is a great love story about destiny and how they were meant to be together. "Let me photograph the two of you and your great love story," I said, but he said that no, Liz wouldn't go for that. She likes to keep their life private. I am also very aware that Barry likes to keep his life private and has never allowed anyone to photograph him at home or anywhere in his private life.

Next time I run into him on the field, I give him a newspaper clipping from a photo essay I did on Giants manager Dusty Baker during that same spring training showing Dusty in the kitchen with his wife, throwing balls to his 3-year-old son, Darren, in the batting cage, filling up the gas tank of his Indian motorcycle, etc. I told him that is the kind of photo essay I want to do with him.

The season progresses as does his home run tally and the paper where I am a staff photographer, the San Francisco Chronicle, is beginning to plan the coverage for when he hits his 600th homer. We are planning a special souvenir section similar to what we did last year when he hit 73 home runs so we knew the drill --- however, I am thinking about how we could make it better, photographically, than before. At the same time I am seeing a side of Barry Bonds that nobody else seems to be seeing.

I am thinking he is a really nice guy who has built up a wall to protect himself which causes him to come off as a not very nice guy. I tell my photo editors that I want to photograph Barry off the field, at home, etc., to show a side of him we have never seen. We all know that it is highly unlikely-actually impossible -- to imagine he would agree to this. However, I know I have to ask him again and see if he really meant it when he agreed earlier.

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Barry and his father Bobby in the Giants dugout before the game when he hit #600.
By now, Bonds has about 595 home runs. I am out photographing the game and don't get a chance to talk to him before the game. They are leaving on a road trip where he could hit 600. Panic sets in. After the game I go out to where I know he has to walk on his way to his car in the parking lot. I'm really feeling like a stalker now, and thinking he could walk right past me or tell me to get lost. Here he comes. I say hi. He smiles and says "What are doing here?"

"I've got to talk to you," I say with sweaty palms while still trying to look cool. "You're getting close to 600 and I need to photograph you at home, in the clubhouse, on the road." As I say each of these things he nods. I say, "You're about to leave on this road trip. Is it OK if I photograph you on the road?"

"Sure" he says.

I tell my editors that Barry said I can photograph him on the road and they say, "Pack your bags" and book me on a flight to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Fast forward to Philadelphia. I see Barry at batting practice and he tells me I cannot shoot any pictures of him on the road. That he will not be going out. I say, "OK, let me shoot photos in your room." He shakes his head. He has his reasons, which I understood.

But here I am on the road to get behind the scenes with Barry and ... nothing. My paper is spending big bucks, and counting on these pictures. I'm thinking he may have changed his mind on the whole project. I'm feeling deflated. I cover the games and send back pictures of game action including Bonds' homer #596.

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Barry in Pittsburgh with an old friend after a game in Pittsburgh.
Now we're in Pittsburgh. He hits #597 and #598. Some people are going out after the game to a sports bar near the stadium owned by a former Pirates player. I agree to meet them for a drink. I'm feeling like I need a strong one. I walk in and see Bonds sitting at a table with the guy who owns the place. I'm shocked, but a little relieved when I remember I have a camera in my bag.

Not knowing how he would receive me I walk up to his table and say,"Hey, you said you'd call me if you were going out." He apologizes and says it was a last minute decision.

I ask if I can shoot pictures and he says he doesn't care, so I start sipping my martini while standing by his table hoping for a nice little moment to happen when a friend of his leans over and feels Bond's muscle, his bicep. Click. OK now I feel like this trip was worth it-one picture.

The next day during batting practice, my golden hour, I get a chance to talk with him. He tells me that when we get back to SF he has a day off and I can spend it with him. I say, "Great. So how will I get in touch with you?" He then gives me his phone number and home address and looks me square in the eye to let me know what would happen if anyone else got this information. I say, "Come on, you trust me by now, don't you?"

He says, "I trust God and my family." I catch my breath and say I'll see him Monday. I meet him at his gym Monday morning. After his workout we have breakfast. He insists I have a healthy breakfast along with him, scrambled egg whites and dry toast. From there we go on to his home where I photograph him with his wife. He picks up his daughter at school and takes her to her exercise class.

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Barry and his daughter Aisha at home.
Later, at home, he just hangs out and does regular guy stuff like watching TV, working on his computer, gets the pool guy to fix the pool, plays with his daughter etc. I see a completely different man than the player with #25 on his back. When he is with his family his face lights up like I have never seen.

After dinner I am still there and he has not asked me to leave, nor he has he said that there is something that I can't shoot. At one point he says with a laugh, "Will you stop pacing and just sit down?" Finally I say I need to go and give them some time alone. He followed through on what he agreed to and walks me to my car.

On Friday of that week, which turns out to be the night he hits 600, I get up early and drive to the gym where he works out. We don't have a plan to meet so I leave my cameras in the trunk until I can ask if he minds me photographing him that day. I see his personal trainer who also isn't sure if Barry is going to show up for a workout or not. I wait for an hour and am about ready to give up when I see him walk in. I am not sure how he will react to seeing me there, but is OK with it and tells me he doesn't mind if I shoot pictures.

After his workout and another egg white breakfast he goes to the chiropractor for an adjustment and says I can follow him there. I photograph him as the chiropractor turns him into a contortionist. Then I figure it is my cue to leave when he says that he is going home to take a nap and I am thinking, "Barry, if that will help you hit 600 tonight, go for it." I feel like I am ready to get this over with. I got the pictures I need and now I need some sleep and a day off. I asked if I could come over his house in an hour or so. He said to give him two hours.

I show up and he and his wife, Liz, are having pasta for lunch. He says to nobody in particular, "Who is pitching tonight?"

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Barry relaxes at home with daughter Aisha and wife Liz.
I say, "Kip Wells."

He says, "I can hit a home run off of him. I did last week." Bonds declares that tonight he will hit home run #600.

Shortly after that he heads to the ballpark. The rest is now history. Just like he said he would, and early enough for our deadline, at 9:24 pm, on a warm San Francisco evening he hits #600 out over the centerfield wall against his former team the Pittsburgh Pirates. He circles the bases as fireworks light up the sky behind him. He raises his arms to the sky which he says he does to thank God, then he waves to his family who are sitting close by.

On Sunday we run a special section starting on page one showing behind-the scenes photographs of Barry with his family before and after he hits 600. One shows his father, Bobby, jokingly kissing him before the game, and another is his father with the bat that Barry used for the hit presented to him by his son. The others are his family greeting him and kissing him as he first encounters them at the entrance to the clubhouse after the game.

Another shows kids following him down the corridor as he leaves the ballpark that night. Bonds and his family were so used to me at this point that they hardly even noticed me or seemed to care if I was there.

On Monday, we run a 14 page special section on Bonds 600 including a list of all 600 home runs, when they were hit and which pitcher gave them up. In that edition we run two pages of pictures of Barry at home with his
Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice/San Francisco Chronicle

Barry leaves Pacific Bell Park after hitting #600.
wife, his daughter, and his dog in addition to pictures of him in the clubhouse in his famous leather recliner and also a picture of him in a bar on the road.

I am now putting together an iphoto book with 20 of the pictures to give to him next time I see him.

Now that I got some sleep and a few days off.

(Deanne Fitzmaurice is a staff photographer at the San Francisco Chronicle. Many of Deanne's photos along with this story can be viewed on the Sports Shooter website at: http://www.SportsShooter.com. They can also be seen in the Photo Gallery on the Chronicle's website: http://www.sfgate.com/gallery/. Deanne can be reached via email: dFitzmaurice@sfchronicle.com)



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