'Very proud': Beltré in front row to witness Pujols' feat

September 24th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- When saw the Cardinals were going to be in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers, he called and told him he would be in attendance at Dodger Stadium all three nights. Beltré told Pujols he was expecting to watch history.

Beltré didn’t have to wait very long as Pujols went deep twice on Friday, becoming the fourth player in the history of Major League Baseball to hit 700 home runs, joining Barry Bonds (762 home runs), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of the most exclusive clubs in the sport.

The pair of blasts helped lift the Cardinals to an 11-0 thumping of the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

“When you talk about baseball, whether it’s here in the United States or in the Dominican Republic, you always look for someone to look up to,” Beltré told MLB.com in Spanish. “That person is Albert Pujols.”

As Pujols touched home plate following his historic homer off Dodgers’ right-hander Phil Bickford, the Cardinals’ slugger pointed up to the sky and then made sure to immediately race over to Beltré, who was sitting in the front row.

“It’s an honor to be here tonight just to support him,” Beltré said. “Albert is an incredibly respected person among all of us. I’m so happy I was here and it’s just an honor to be here for such a humble, hard-working person that has had an incredible career and was able to accomplish such an incredible feat. I’m very proud.”

While most people have been surprised with what Pujols has been able to accomplish at age 42 this season, Beltré said he expected a season like this because of Pujols’ work ethic. Beltré saw it from the opposing side for over a decade. He also got a chance to witness it firsthand when the two suited up together in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

“When you work hard for what you want, it doesn’t matter how old you are,” Beltré said. “Maybe a lot of people didn’t expect a season like this, but if you ask him, I’m sure he’s not surprised because he’s worked really hard to play like this and to stay consistent. We’re all really happy he was able to stay healthy and get to 700 homers.”

Beltré, who is in the 3,000-hit club, could become the fifth Dominican-born player to get inducted into Cooperstown when he becomes eligible in 2024. But one thing he’s certain of is that Pujols, who is the only player from Latin America to reach the 700-homer mark, will will surely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

“He’s somebody that I respect. Somebody I played a lot of games in this stadium against him,” Pujols said. “It’s someone that will probably be our next Hall of Famer in two or three more years. In batting practice I told him I wanted to do this for our country, too, because they want it so bad. I just wanted to share that moment with him because I know he would’ve done the same for me.”

Four years ago, Beltré, then with the Rangers, caught Pujols’ ceremonial first pitch to celebrate the latter's 3,000th hit. It’s a friendship that has spanned for decades with both being from Santo Domingo. On Friday, however, Beltré was just another fan rooting for one of the greatest accomplishments in Major League history.

“He’s what every player should strive to be like,” Beltré said. “Any kid that is looking for a role model, he’s the guy to emulate. I’m just proud to be a Dominican, proud to call him my friend.”