He was better than Bonds

It was an occasional wager Ray McDonald would make in jest — and win as soon as he took out his wallet.

He would sit in the outfield seats at Candlestick Park watching the Giants and, when the topic of left fielder Barry Bonds came up, McDonald would casually mention he actually had a higher batting average when the two were senior teammates at Serra High School in San Mateo.

The claim would be met with disbelief and then a bet. That is when McDonald would pull a card out of his pocket with the official 1982 West Catholic Athletic League stats showing he hit .490 to Bonds’ .450. Thus, his appetite at many games was satiated.

“You’d sit out in the bleachers [and] you’d bet the guy next to you a beer or something that you outhit [Bonds] in high school,” McDonald said with a laugh. “And of course it was always ‘No way!’ you know? But then you’d show him the card … and you’d have a good night.”

McDonald is one of a large contingent of Bonds’ former teammates and coaches at Serra who closely followed and applauded the left fielder as he pursued baseball’s all-time home run record. Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron’s total of 755 with an Aug. 7 homer off Mike Bacsik of the Washington Nationals and the local legend was honored Friday in a special noontime ceremony by The City.

“I jumped up out of my seat, put both hands up and yelled ‘See ya!’” said David Stevens, his coach at Serra who watched No. 756 from his Arizona home. “It was so exciting to see him and his family and the kids out there celebrating.”

Bonds had a .404 batting average in three varsity seasons with the Padres (which ranks eighth in school history) and hit 22 home runs (second).

But his feats go beyond the numbers. McDonald thought back to the routine ground balls to shortstop that Bonds would beatout because of his superior speed. And Stevens recalled several prodigious Bonds homers that have only grown in grandeur over the years. For instance, he said when Bonds crushed No. 752 onto Waveland Avenue in Chicago against the Cubs on July 19, it reminded him of a blast the slugger hit in his senior year with the Padres. Some scouts had wanted to see if Bonds could succeed with a wooden bat and Bonds agreed to use it during a game against St. Ignatius at West Sunset Field.

“And in his first at-bat, he powdered one, man, I mean it was sailing,” Stevens said. “And the funny part about it is by the time he got back into the dugout and the kids had finished jumping all over him I looked back and all the scouts had gone. I guess they saw what they needed to see.”

Pitcher Mike Roza was a sophomore during Bonds’ senior year and grew up playing pickup baseball and basketball with him in San Carlos. And like McDonald and Stevens, he remembers a kind, friendly teammate much different than he is publicly perceived.

“He was always smiling and laughing and had the greatest personality,” Roza said. “And he’s the most confident guy you’d ever meet. We learned a lot of that swagger you need to have to compete from him.”

Added McDonald: “He’s the greatest player of my era. The greatest player that I’ve ever seen, you know. … And I was very fortunate that I had the opportunity to go to high school and play with him.”

melliser@examiner.com  

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