JUPITER, Florida (Reuters) - What can Mark McGwire do for an encore?
The St. Louis Cardinals slugger was asked that and a wide variety of other questions Wednesday as he met the media for the first time since reporting to spring training.
McGwire talked about the charmed 1998 season in which he hit 70 homers to obliterate Roger Maris' single-season record of 61 while captivating a nation in the process. While refusing to discuss any personal home run goals, he was quick to point out that anything is possible.
``The only expectations I have to live up to are what I set,'' McGwire said. ``Last year was a magical year. It may never happen again. But it might.''
In order to break the mark, McGwire said any aspirant would need to have at least 40 homers by the All-Star break.
``I can only imagine the amount of pressure. I know what it entails to reach 60, 61,'' McGwire said. ``Try to reach 10 more.''
McGwire also defended his use of the performance supplement androstenedione and blasted published reports that bodyguards would be used to protect him at spring training.
The 35-year-old said the toughest part of setting the record came after he hit his 62nd in early September, since he realized he would have to hold off the surge of the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa.
``The toughest part was keeping it. Sammy Sosa had a pretty good year,'' McGwire said. ``I knew there was plenty left in the season. The pressure of holding on to the record was greater than getting to 62.''
Sosa finished with 66 homers and McGwire was not assured of the record until he had a pair of two-homer games on the final weekend of the regular season.
McGwire made no apologies for his use of andro, which he says aids him in workouts. It is allowed in baseball but is forbidden by some leagues and is on the International Olympic Committee's list of banned substances.
``Baseball is not the IOC. It has nothing to do with hitting a baseball. Period,'' McGwire said. ``It's legal. It's sold over the counter.''
Prior to spring training, it was reported that security guards would shadow McGwire while at camp. The Cardinals said that while extra security has been added due to the expected increase in crowds, there would be no special protection given to McGwire.
``I don't need a bodyguard,'' said the 250-pounder.
Breaking a cherished record has its privileges and McGwire was able to enjoy a few during the offseason. He met briefly with Pope John Paul II during a visit to St. Louis last month. He also was in bed with Helen Hunt in an appearance on the sitcom ``Mad About You'' and attended movie premiers for ``Patch Adams'' and ``The Thin Red Line.''
``I've been fortunate to meet some important people in many lines of work,'' admitted McGwire, who has 457 homers, topping 50 each of the last three seasons.
McGwire said he still loves playing baseball and showed no signs of leaving the game anytime soon.
``I think I've got another five good years,'' he said. ''Then I would be 40. We'll take each year as it comes.''
One factor that could make McGwire walk away was another work stoppage, which is possible after the 2001 season.
``I'd be so disgusted I'd walk away from the game,'' McGwire said.
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