SAN FRANCISCO -- They played a baseball game, too, and not a bad one at that. And though Barry Bonds said the outcome mattered, he was still trying to sort through a lifetime of memories experienced in three days of real time.

"I'm lost for words," Bonds said Tuesday night. His All-Star experience was over as he spoke. Outside, the game itself played on. But as we said, for Bonds that part of it was Too Much piled atop More Than Enough.

"There's too many emotions to be able to explain it. You know, this is my family. These are people, a lot of them I grew up with throughout my years. All you can say is thank you. You don't know what to say."

The loss for words began 10 days ago, when, miraculously, he went sprinting past Alfonso Soriano and into the National League's starting lineup in fan voting for the All-Star Game. It was the first in a series of mind-blowing events for Bonds, according to Bonds, and he planned on collecting them all.

Monday was a full day. He spoke at an All-Star press conference, by all accounts as thoughtful and reflective as you'll ever see him. He watched the Home Run Derby, or at least part of it. He hosted a party with rapper Jay-Z.

Everywhere he went he was the official All-Star Game host, the unofficial mayor of San Francisco. He seemed to be enjoying the ride.

Speaking of rides, Tuesday's experience began with a parade of SUVs starting in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. One by one, the All-Stars rode the last half-mile to AT&T Park on a literal red carpet along King Street. Fans showered Bonds with love as he rolled past, and he responded in kind.

He was cheered every time he poked his nose out of the dugout. During a long ovation after being introduced with the starting lineups, Bonds waved and bowed to every corner of the ballpark, patting his heart.

After the anthems had been performed, the All-Stars lined up on the outfield grass, creating a tunnel through which Willie Mays walked. Bonds escorted his 76-year-old godfather, watched him throw the ceremonial first pitch, and carefully helped him into a waiting Cadillac convertible.

It was an exquisitely prolonged moment for Giants fans. For Bonds, it was the circle of life closing in a warm embrace.

"It was icing on the cake," he said. "Actually being able to walk Willie in was probably the biggest thing because, you know, the All-Star Game is here in San Francisco. It could be the last time you see us walk (together). That was the greatest thing."

Then, yes, a game. Batting second -- still waiting for manager Tony La Russa or anyone to explain that in a way that makes sense -- Bonds popped to right field in the first inning against A's pitcher Dan Haren. In the fourth, he provided a brief can-you-believe-this moment when he drove a Josh Beckett pitch to left field, where it was caught on the warning track.

"I hit it pretty good, I thought, but I caught it behind myself," Bonds said. "I was trying to get (base runner Jose) Reyes over to third. It was weird hitting second. I'm not used to that."

Bonds seemed ... not dazed, necessarily. Not overwhelmed, because he'll probably never know that emotion. He seemed real.

As near as anyone can tell, he and reality as we know it have never had a particularly close relationship. He walked among the gods of sport as a child. Before puberty he was identified as an elite athlete, and granted the requisite and extraordinary privileges.

He was so good he was drafted twice. The first time, he accepted a scholarship to Arizona State rather than sign with the Giants. The second time he was drafted, in the first round by Pittsburgh, he signed. He was in the majors to stay two years later.

Then came the hits, the stolen bags, the homers, the rewards, the lust for limelight, the lifestyle. Soon enough the boy who had walked among gods was their equal. What happened over the past few days goes beyond that.

What happened was a connection -- the kind of personal, emotional connection at which Bonds doesn't always excel. And the man who has created the persona of the impenetrable icon was visibly moved.

"It was probably more than what I thought it would be," he said. "It was even more. The red carpet ride was fantastic. It's just been great to get around the city and to do things in the way that people have responded here. It's just exciting. To be in a big city, those are big stages and San Francisco did it right."

All that, and a ballgame too.

Contact Gary Peterson at gpeterson@cctimes.com.