The Los Angeles Dodgers made a somewhat shocking move to sign future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols on May 15 after he was designated for assignment and released by the L.A. Angels.
Since moving from Anaheim to Los Angeles, Pujols has increased his production on the field. He’s also enjoyed his time playing more than he has in recent memory while he becomes the veteran presence everyone in the clubhouse seeks for advice.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in a while,” Pujols said.
“I can be really intimidating sometimes because of the way I stay so focused on the game, and they see a part of me that they can come and approach me whether I’m playing in the game or not. Just come and talk baseball, life, parenting or whatever it is. I believe that’s why God has put me here, and I’m enjoying every moment. Being with this young talent, it’s just unbelievable.”
When Pujols left the Angels to sign with the Dodgers, he went from being a full-time player to a platoon bat off the bench. He credits the Dodgers culture for allowing him to have so much fun while taking over a new role and joining a new organization.
“I think just the chemistry and opportunity. I think being around veteran guys, they have the same mindset that I have about winning and helping this organization,” Pujols explained. “I think it’s just a great mix of guys. It reminds me of my time back in St. Louis; that’s how I felt as soon as I walked in the clubhouse.
“From Day 1, the vibe and energy in the clubhouse is something I thank God for opening this door and the Dodgers giving me another opportunity and believing in me. That’s something that’s really critical for me: somebody that trusts and knows I’m still able to play this game.
“When you have the manager, the front office and coaches believing in you and making you better, it’s pretty awesome.”
Pujols was hitting .198/.250/.372 with a 69 wRC+ and five home runs in 92 plate appearances as a member of the Angels before he was released. Since joining the Dodgers, he has hit .263/.300/.526 with a 128 wRC+ and six home runs in 80 plate appearances.
However, as a career .298/.376/.545 batter with 673 home runs, Pujols is one of the greatest hitters of all time, so he isn’t just crediting his success this season to having more fun.
“I know that I trained hard this offseason, I had a good game plan, I have a great plan right now with our hitting coaches, and just enjoying every opportunity and every moment,” Pujols said.
“I can’t tell you what it is, but I know when I’m healthy what I can do. I’m working hard every day and not taking anything for granted. I think those are the things that have helped me so far. To point at one thing, it’s hard to say.”
While things didn’t go the way he wanted with the Angels, Pujols said he was still enjoying his time playing the game because not many people get to experience it.
“Anytime I wear a uniform I enjoy it and have fun. I think there’s so many people that would like to have the opportunity to wear a big league uniform or even be a professional athlete,” Pujols said.
“So every opportunity God has given me, waking up every day and wearing a big league uniform, I enjoy it. I enjoyed it with the Cardinals, I enjoyed it with the Angels, and I’m enjoying it with the Dodgers right now and giving 110% every day. Even though the time there (with the Angels), we were not playing as well, and I know the fans and organization were disappointed, but those are stuff you cannot control.
“You can control yourself and the things you need to do. But yeah, anytime I put this uniform on, I enjoy it no matter what uniform I’m wearing. And the day that I stop enjoying it, that’s the day it’s time to go.”
Pujols providing leadership
At 41 years old and with nearly 3,000 games played, Pujols has been around nearly any scenario that comes up on a baseball field or in the clubhouse. With his wealth of knowledge, he has taken over for Chase Utley and David Freese as the player everyone wants to learn from.
He has taken to talking to everybody as they seek advice during practice or in-game, which has allowed Pujols to learn more too.
“Muncy and I, we always talk. J.T., we’re always talking about approach and hitting. With Mookie, Gavin, Will, Matt, all those guys,” he said.
“We’re not only watching the game, we know whether there’s a pinch-hit or we’re going to be in the lineup, we want to do our best to help this organization to win. So anytime you can talk about the approach you want to take against the guys you’re facing, it’s always a plus.
“I think that’s the kind of group we have here. We’re kind of picking each other’s brain, and it’s pretty awesome.”
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