“I’m happy now that I have more time,” Bonds told the crowd gathered at Union Square. “I’ve actually enjoyed myself immensely.”
Bonds, honorary chair of this year’s lighting, did not talk to reporters and left quickly after giving a brief speech during the 30-minute ceremony, reports the Associated Press. Lights adorning the large tree are sold to benefit the UCSF Children’s Hospital palliative care program, and nearly $700,000 has been raised during the past five years.
When a young patient asked Bonds about possibly returning to baseball, he replied: “I had fun, but I like my freedom.”
Bonds has donated time and money to the program, hosting golf tournaments and visiting patients and their families. He passed out autographed baseball cards of himself and politely chatted with several patients, many confined to wheelchairs, AP noted.
“We all go through adversities and tragedies,” Bonds told the crowd, which greeted him with a standing ovation. “It takes every one of us to stick together to make all of our children’s times as precious as we can.”
Bonds pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of making false declarations to a federal grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice, and his trial is scheduled to start March 2. Bonds is accused of lying when he said he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs during 2003 grand jury testimony.
The 44-year-old Bonds hit 762 homers, seven more than the previous record set by Hank Aaron.