SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - For months, Barry Bonds has deflected all the questions about his pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record.
It was too premature. He still had a long way go to 755.
Now that he's only one swing from tying the Hammer, there's no dodging talk of the hallowed mark.
"It's sinking in now," Bonds said.
The San Francisco star hit a soaring drive for his 754th home run Friday night - and Hammerin' Hank, he's right behind you now.
Bonds sent a 2-1 pitch from rookie Rick Vanden Hurk over the wall in left-center in the first inning for a solo shot in the San Francisco Giants 12-10 win over the Florida Marlins.
Bonds walked in his next four plate appearances and will likely resume his pursuit Saturday night, when Dontrelle Willis starts for the Marlins.
"Tonight was a great night," Bonds said, joined in his postgame news conference by wife, Liz, daughter, Aisha, and son, Nikolai. "The ball was just carrying."
Bud Selig wasn't there to see this homer, sending MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy in his place. The commissioner was back in Milwaukee, preparing to go to Sunday's Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Bonds did hear from Michael Jordan, though. A taped message from the NBA great played on AT&T Park's video board between innings.
"It was great seeing the board, and having Michael Jordan say what he said was phenomenal," Bonds said.
After a brief pause to put specially marked baseballs in play, Bonds had drawn ball one and ball two - with boos raining down on Vanden Hurk - before a called first strike. Then, the 84 mph changeup was gone - a drive estimated at 420 feet.
"I wanted to throw it down and I left it hanging up and he hit out," Vanden Hurk said. "I knew he got real good wood on it. I knew when I let it go I didn't bury it or finish it all the way. I just left it up. If a pitch is up, you're going to get hurt, obviously."
As usual, Bonds stood and watched his ball sail away, then began yet another trot and pumped his fist along the way. "754" flashed on the main scoreboard, and Bonds blew kisses to his family when he crossed home. Then, Bonds hugged hitting coach Joe Lefebvre in the dugout. Lefebvre has been working closely with the 43-year-old slugger during his recent struggles.
"I wasn't caught up in the moment," Bonds said. "Yesterday I sat around and studied my films. There were things that I got away from."
Fans, already on their feet for Bonds' first at-bat, screamed in delight when it was clear he had homered - Bonds' first at home since he connected for No. 750 on June 29 against Arizona's Livan Hernandez. "Barry! Barry!" they chanted as he rounded the bases.
"He knew he got it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "After that he didn't get many pitches to hit."
Hundreds of fans held their cell phones in the air to take pictures after Bonds' home run and during each of his other plate appearances. They booed when he drew the walks.
"The only thing different was he was just trying to throw his arm out of socket," Bonds said. "His velocity went from one extreme to another on my next at-bats."
The fan who retrieved No. 754 was Eric Stormer, a general contractor and season ticketholder from nearby Martinez.
In his first chance to tie Aaron, Bonds walked on five pitches in the third inning. He also walked in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings.
Home is certainly where his heart is. Bonds has hit many of his milestone homers here - Nos. 500, 600 and 700 along with 660 and 661 to tie and pass his godfather, Hall of Famer Willie Mays. This is also where he hit 715 last May 28 to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. No. 714 came across San Francisco Bay in Oakland.
In 2001, Bonds hit the final three of his 73 homers at home, breaking Mark McGwire's season record of 70.
Can he set the mark this weekend?
"I'll try, if they cooperate," Bonds said.
The Giants go on the road starting Tuesday night against rival Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.
Bonds had gone homerless in five games and 18 at-bats since hitting two against the Chicago Cubs on July 19 at Wrigley Field. He had been 3-for-18 since his previous homer, but said he didn't think he was overswinging.
"What's he's done is unreal," Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs said. "I know everyone talks about A-Rod having a chance one day to do this, but until that days comes, Barry Bonds is by far the best hitter I think that's ever played this game."
The seven-time NL MVP went out to his spot in left field in the top of the second with fans pounding the outfield fence in celebration. Bonds turned to acknowledge them with a wave of his cap.
A "Road to History" tribute played on the main center-field scoreboard with the greeting from Jordan.
"Hey Barry, it's Michael Jordan," his message said. "I just want to congratulate you on your historic event. I'm very happy for you. Ever since the first day I saw you in the batting cage, you've been working toward this for a long period of time. So I want to wish you and Elizabeth and that beautiful girl of yours congratulations. I'm very happy for you."