SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Everyone was buzzing about Barry Bonds.
National League manager Tony La Russa had just posted his lineup for Tuesday night's All-Star game and Bonds, baseball's prodigy and pariah, was batting second, rather than his customary cleanup spot.
"I'm hitting fourth?" Ken Griffey Jr. said incredulously. "Just tell him to get the guys over for me."
Loved and loathed, admired and assailed, Bonds was the center of attention Monday as baseball's midsummer celebration returned to San Francisco for the first time in 23 years.
For once Bonds could bask in the sunlight that filled the Giants' ballpark by the bay and the attention of adoring hometown fans, the dual burden of steroid suspicions and his home-run chase lifted for a few days.
"My thing is that I feel disappointed in some of those fans that were influenced by a third-party judgment and have not given me that opportunity just to know me," he said. "People in San Francisco know me."
In a silver vest and fashionable tie, Bonds sat behind a corner table in the grand ballroom of the Westin St. Francis hotel by Union Square, surrounded by media a dozen deep as he spoke for an hour before the Home Run Derby.
Bonds, a 14-time All-Star, decided not to take part in Monday night's derby, disappointing fans in the ballpark and ratings-hungry baseball executives. He's done it six times before and didn't want to exert himself at age 42.
"I love Barry," the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez said. "I wish he was there because I'm watching it and I want to see great players hit. It would have been awesome to watch him hit some into McCovey Cove."
Bonds skipped his turn between Carlos Beltran and Griffey when the NL stars took batting practice. When he stepped into the cage a bit later, fans cheered and chanted "Barry! Barry!" as he hit mostly liners and grounders. He did send a few drives out toward the right- and center-field seats. He hit seven homers in all, and fans in kayaks and rafts awaited his single splash shot, one diving into the water to fish out a ball. Bonds hasn't started a regular-season game in the No. 2 hole since June 6, 1987.