Bonds' home run ball turns into great catch for plumber

Aug 5, 2007 - 8:40 PM By Tim Powers PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

San Diego (Ticker) -- It's no coincidence that Barry Bonds and Adam Hughes both enjoyed great days off this weekend.

One day after accomplishing a feat as significant as tying Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, Bonds decided he needed the afternoon off Sunday.

Bonds belted career home run number 755 on Saturday night in Petco Park against San Diego Padres starter Clay Hensley, drilling a 2-1 pitch into straightaway left field to give himself a share of one of baseball's most hallowed records.

Hughes, a 33-year-old plumber, was at Saturday's game only because he had the good fortune of accepting tickets to the game from his mother.

That could turn into a small fortune for Hughes, who will forever be linked to Bonds because he was lucky enough to grab the extremely valuable home run ball.

The prize souvenir is expected to fetch six figures if Hughes decides to sell it.

Hughes never expected to catch the ball, which fell through a pile of overanxious fans and onto the ground directly in front of Hughes.

"I was in the back of the pile," Hughes said at a press conference shortly after Saturday's game. "I've seen a lot of other home runs hit at the park before. I saw it go up above me and come down, and it was on the ground. I was in the right place at the right time."

Hughes was undecided about his long-term plans for the ball, not knowing whether to cash it in, give it to Bonds or donate it to the Hall of Fame.

"I haven't really decided yet what direction to go," Hughes said. "I don't know what to say to that question yet."

Hughes still had to figure out the immediate future of the ball.

"I don't know (where to put it), probably in a safe place," Hughes said. "Wherever it ends up. I don't know. I don't have a mantle to put it on."

At the time, all Hughes could appreciate was the momentous occasion of which he fortuitously became a part.

"I'm not the one who made any kind of accomplishment," Hughes said. "It was pretty neat to be a part of history. It's something to tell my kids."

While Hughes relished his good fortune, Hensley had to deal with the ignominious fate of being remembered as the pitcher who served up the homer. He was the 445th different pitcher to yield a home run to Bonds.

"Obviously, you don't want to be that guy who gave up the home run, but it is what it is," Hensley said. "I'm not going to put too much stock in it. We were trying to win a ballgame. I wasn't trying to pitch around him, I went after him and he hit a ball that was up."

Adding insult to injury, Hensley was optioned to Class AAA Portland prior to Sunday's game. The Padres needed a fresh arm in Mike Thompson to replenish a bullpen that worked into extra innings in consecutive games Friday and Saturday.

There also was a certain amount of irony in Hensley being the one to surrender the milestone home run to Bonds, who is battling allegations of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Hensley himself was busted for steroid use in April 2005, when the 27-year-old was a Padres' farmhand. He was suspended for 15 games but persevered to reach the big leagues later that season and contributed in a relief role to San Diego's National League West Division title.

As for Bonds, he opted to skip Sunday's contest after soaking up all the accolades that come with equalling the revered slugger known as "Hammerin' Hank."

The seven-time National League MVP instead will shoot for sole possession of the home run mark Monday night in San Francisco, where the Giants open a six-game homestand against Washington and Pittsburgh.

"The hard part is over right now," Bonds said. "I'm not going to be in the lineup (Sunday). I'm going to celebrate with my family."

Commissioner Bud Selig attended each of Bonds' games for the past week. Padres owner John Moores hosted Selig in his private suite, which offered a clear view of Bonds' opposite-field shot that will help define Selig's time as baseball's top official.

As Bonds' blast cleared the left field wall, Selig stood up and put his hands in his pockets, not bothering to clap.

"Congratulations to Barry Bonds as he ties Major League Baseball's home run record," Selig said in an issued statement. "No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds' achievement is noteworthy and remarkable."

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