ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols has had an incredibly decorated career. He's won three National League MVP Awards, was selected as an All-Star 10 times and is the only member of the 650-homer, 650-double club.
Pujols, 40, is entering his 20th Major League season and although it’ll be an abbreviated 60-game season because of the coronavirus, Pujols isn’t one to complain about the affect it could have on his legacy with fewer chances to add to his gaudy career totals.
“I don't think it’s disappointing at all,” Pujols said. “I won’t use that word, because it’s something that it was worldwide. You know this pandemic wasn't just in the United States. I think to say ‘disappointed’ is being selfish. And that’s the last thing that I want to be. This is not about Albert Pujols. This is about the Angels' organization and what I'm supposed to do to help my team to win.”
Pujols, a career .300/.379/.549 hitter, has racked up impressive career totals with 656 homers, 661 doubles, 3,202 hits, 1,828 runs scored and 2,075 RBIs in 11 seasons with the Cardinals and eight with the Angels. But Pujols has always maintained he doesn’t play for his own personal numbers and doesn’t feel close to walking away from the game with one year left beyond this season on the 10-year contract he signed with the Angels.
“Numbers-wise, I’m blessed with everything that I have accomplished and done in this game,” Pujols said. “So, you know, you say, ‘Yeah, 40 years old. Yeah, I’m getting toward the end of my career.’ But I still feel like I’m 25. I train so hard. I’ve been healthy over the last 2 1/2 years. No surgery, knock on wood.”
As Pujols noted, he’s been healthy in recent years after a spate of injuries and surgeries plagued him from 2013-17. He had operations on his left knee, right foot and right elbow, which he admitted caused him to have some doubt.
But Pujols avoided the injured list last season, hitting .244/.305/.430 with 23 homers, 22 doubles and 93 RBIs in 131 games, and he feels fresh after a full offseason and the extra four months of training due to the season being pushed back. Pujols has a gym in his home, and he worked out with Angels strength and conditioning coordinator Lee Fiocchi to stay in shape for the truncated season.
“I love the game of baseball,” Pujols said. “Close friends of mine and my wife know that if I wake up one day and I don’t feel that desire, that hunger or that passion for the game, that would be the last game. When you don’t have that hunger and that joy and that passion coming to the ballpark and hanging out with your teammates, that’s when you walk away. The game will let you know. But I still feel like I was in 2001 with the Cardinals, when I came to camp to make that ball club. I still have that hunger and that desire."
Pujols added that his love for baseball will not fade even when he’s done playing, as he enjoys helping others and passing down all he’s learned over the years. He’s also been generous with his foundation, paying the salaries of the Angels' Dominican Republic staff for five months after they were furloughed. It’s Pujols’ way of giving back to the game he loves and one he’s not ready to walk away from just yet.
“I was talking to Tony La Russa the other day about that passion I have -- it’s in my blood,” Pujols said. “I’m not going to switch it right because we have a short season this year or a full season next year. I still have that passion. And even after I retire, I still think I’ll have it. I have that wisdom I can pass along to so many young athletes and players coming up right now in our organization and in in the Dominican Republic.”