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Fans get firsthand look at history

Fans get firsthand look at history

SAN DIEGO -- The fans in left field witnessed history firsthand as Barry Bonds hit home run No. 755 right at them on Saturday night.

It all started when Bonds came to the plate for his first at-bat in the top of the second inning against Padres starter Clay Hensley.

Tom Stafford, who was sitting in the front row in the left-field lower boxes, decided to walk down to the edge of the facade wall with his digital camera in hand. He wanted to take a picture of Bonds at the plate. But Stafford couldn't click fast enough.

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Bonds' long-awaited home run was soaring over Stafford's head. But it didn't exactly go into anyone's hand or glove. The famed ball, which traveled an estimated 382 feet, hit the facade on the second deck of the pavilion before it fell to the ground among scurrying hands.

"The ball actually hit off the red sign right above the outfield marker two rows back," said fan Jerry French. "It dropped down, it hit the hands of a few people, dropped to the ground and a guy in the first row of the left-field seats crawled underneath the seats and got the ball.

"I knew it was a home run as soon as he hit it."

Adam Hughes is the lucky owner of No. 755. He sat in section 130, row 1, seat 18 and grabbed the ball that landed just a few feet away from him. Hughes, 33, came to the game with his cousin, Justin Marquardt. He will keep the ball for the time being, he told reporters later. Hughes bought his ticket for Saturday's game just the day before, and in less then 24 hours he became a small part of history.

"[Hughes] was very nervous, his arms were shaking but he was holding the ball up when he actually walked by. He had the ball up and they came and got him," French said.

There was no ill will among the fans in left field when Bonds' famed home run ball landed in their section. They were actually cool and calm.

"It was a very positive reaction, people were very cool," French said, who sat 10 feet away from where the ball landed. "It came down and people were jostling for it but no animosity or whatever."

Longtime Padre fan Harry "The Heckler" Maker said, "It was civil here. Yeah, we don't try and kill each other. There was struggling over there, but it's pretty nonviolent down here."

Added Stafford, "It was calm, quiet, collected. It was fine. Nobody clapped. It was just a million-dollar ball."

The crowd in left field was predominately made up of Padres fans with a few Giants supporters scattered throughout. Even though the atmosphere wasn't filled with elation and applause, that does not mean there weren't anti-Barry fans around. Some were ready to show their animosity through their actions, like Maker.

Maker, who spoke under his handlebar mustache, said he didn't think Bonds would homer this weekend. But if he did, Maker was prepared.

Maker had a brown, scuffed-up ball that he would throw back in case he caught ball No. 755 with his glove.

A number of fans in the front row of section 130 held out white pieces of paper with huge black asterisks on them.

But others, such as French, thought it was a great moment in baseball history, a moment that ended sooner than the game itself. The Padres beat the Giants, 3-2, in the bottom of the 12th inning.

"I just came to watch the game and to see Barry Bonds," French said. "I'm a baseball fan. I'm tired of the animosity toward him."

Even though Stafford didn't get a picture of Bonds at the plate, he did snap one of Hughes holding the ball in his hand. The picture is a close-up of the ball in Hughes' hand.

"All of a sudden [I'm taking] a picture of the guy walking out with the ball," Stafford said. "I have several pictures. ... Oh, it was great. I can care less about Barry Bonds, to be honest with you, but it's a moment in history."

Elizabeth M. Botello is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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