Injuries were creeping up, his numbers were declining, and the legendary Red Sox designated hitter was starting to give serious thought to the possibility of retiring after the 2014 season. But Pujols urged him on, because No. 500 was so close.
"It's a good feeling," Pujols said to Ortiz at the time. "You need to come back and try to do it."
Ortiz came back, and he did it on Saturday. The 39-year-old slugger became the 27th member of the 500-home-run club in a game against the Rays, joined Pujols as the only player to hit Nos. 499 and 500 in the same game and became the fourth Dominican to reach the milestone, along with Pujols, Sammy Sosa and ex-teammate Manny Ramirez.
Pujols called while Ortiz's game was still ongoing.
"Just to congratulate him and tell him how proud I am, how proud our country is for what he has accomplished in this game," Pujols said before Monday's series opener against the Mariners. "Who David is off the field - that's the most important thing. People don't get to see what he does through his foundation and in the [Dominican Republic]. Players that are around him and people that know him - we all know what kind of person he is. To me, that's the most important thing."
Pujols used to watch Ortiz play almost every day in the Dominican Republic, before Ortiz knew him. Ortiz signed with the Mariners in 1992, and their Dominican academy was located in Pujols' home town of Los Trinitarios, located within the capital city of Santo Domingo. Pujols was about 12 years old then, four years and two months younger than Ortiz.
The Mariners' complex was on his way home from school, and Pujols sat in the bleachers to watch Ortiz hit during summer league games before his own practices began.
"He was always a beast, man," Pujols said of Ortiz. "He was one of the best hitters in that academy."
When Pujols got to the big leagues, he told Ortiz how much he enjoyed watching him play as a teenager.
Now he's hoping to see him in the Hall of Fame.
"There's no doubt that he's a Hall of Famer," Pujols said. "Just look at what he has done and what he has accomplished over his last 15 years, and look at what he has done in the postseason. I think that counts."