The Arizona State baseball program has no shortage of famous alumni to celebrate, and on Tuesday evening, Major League Baseball's home run king had an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane.
The Sun Devils welcomed MLB's all-time home run leader and former ASU outfielder Barry Bonds to Phoenix Municipal Stadium ahead of the program's mid-week tilt with UNLV to unveil new uniforms designed in Bonds' honor.
The Sun Devils will debut adidas Baseball Heritage Collection uniforms for the game that use styling and materials used during Bonds' era to create a retro look.
"It's special, anytime you get to come to your old alma mater it's awesome," Bonds said. "There's nothing better than that. Nothing. It's nice. Playing baseball as a kid, and then being able to come back. You know I go back to my high school or come back to my college to be recognized, it's always going to be special."
Bonds spent three seasons at ASU and was a member of two Sun Devils' squads that made runs to the College World Series. Though Bonds arrived at ASU two years after its most recent national championship (1981), he and a large contingent of his teammates that went on to have major league careers helped the program remain a national powerhouse in the early 1980s.
"All my years, with (Jim) Brock and having Oddibe (McDowell) and (Mike) Devereaux and (Don) Wakamatsu, all of the guys," Bonds said. "Todd Brown, Doug Henry, Charles Scott, I could go on and on. There's a whole list of them and they also had good careers too. We had good years, we were a really good team. Since I was a freshman we were a really good team."
During his three-year run with the Sun Devils, Bonds was twice named to the All-College World Series team (1983, 1984) and was a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree. Though he holds the Major League Baseball record for home runs with 762, Bonds is actually fourth in ASU history in career home runs with 45.
On Tuesday, Bonds reflected on his decision to continue his baseball career at ASU after graduating from Serra High in San Mateo, California, saying the tradition established in the Sun Devils' program continues to speak for itself.
"I came here cause of Reggie Jackson, Alvin Davis, my family members and I always knew about Arizona State and the tradition, it speaks for itself," Bonds said. "When you come to great weather all the time, great baseball, community out through Arizona, they produce good baseball players in Arizona period."
Bonds was particularly close with his head coach, Dr. Jim Brock, who led the Sun Devils from 1972 up until his death in 1994 and spent 23 seasons in charge of the ASU program. Bonds said his mother and Brock's wife are still close friends.
"He (Brock) was a good coach, man and I loved him because his wife and my mom are still great friends this day," Bonds said. "They travel together, trips together so we've been really close ever since I've been in college. Coach Brock and I have always been close, all the way until the end."
During Bonds' playing days, ASU called the legendary Packard Stadium in Tempe home as the Sun Devils didn't move into Phoenix Municipal Stadium until the start of the 2015 season. On Tuesday, Bonds said he had an opportunity to walk around and visit ASU's locker room and was blown away by the amenities the Sun Devils players have at their disposal.
"I ain't ever seen anything like this before," Bonds said. "This place in here is better than some Major League stadiums. Their locker room, I was like dying. We had a trailer when I was going to school here. We all dressed in a little trailer and then walked over here. We had to go to the activity center to get most of our stuff at that time but this is nice, this is special, it's a beautiful place."
While most of Bonds' pregame reflection was ASU-focused, he did offer an opinion on the importance of the college game and the role it played in his development. Many of baseball's top prospects --including many ASU commits-- elect to forego their college eligibility and enter the minor leagues immediately after leaving high school, and Bonds said he thinks passing up on the opportunity to play in college is a mistake.
After three seasons at ASU, Bonds was drafted in the first round of the 1985 Major League Baseball Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and needed just one year in the minor leagues before earning a call-up to the show in 1986.
"I think college is way better than getting drafted out of high school," Bonds said. "I don't think you're ready. I didn't do it, I don't really recommend it, I think the life obstacles that you need to go through and just growing within the game itself, I think college is the way to go. You have a little more margin for error, you can find yourself a little bit, unless you're exceptional, if you're a special kid, that's great, but in the minor leagues, you've got to learn a lot quicker and sometimes you're not as ready or prepared. And at the same time, those opportunities only come once and giving up your college experience to just do that and now having to go back to school really fast, I don't know, I'd rather go to college."