Albert Pujols grew up in the Dominican Republic, but never got the chance to play in the country’s professional baseball league.
That is until this winter, when Pujols will suit up for Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Professional Baseball League. Pujols, 41, was introduced by the team on Friday, saying that he’s not ready to retire. Pujols also said he wants to play in the MLB in 2022.
“I made a promise,” Pujols said. “I said I was going to play here before I retire. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to retire yet. My time to retire hasn’t arrived yet. Why do I have to retire because someone tells me to? I’m going to do it on my terms and when I feel I can’t play anymore.”
Pujols was drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB Draft by the Cardinals. Upon making his debut in 2001, Pujols quickly became one of the best players in the league. In 11 seasons in St. Louis, Pujols earned 10 All-Star nods, won three MVPs, two World Series’ and hit over .300 and drove in 100 or more runs in every season excluding 2011.
2011 was Pujols’ last season with the Cardinals, before he signed a massive 10-year, $240 million deal with the Angels. His time in Los Angeles was often scrutinized, with Pujols only making one All-Star team with no other individual nods. He’s managed to keep playing into his 40s, however, making it back to the Playoffs in 2021 as a member of the Dodgers. For the season, Pujols hit .236 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs.
Pujols stands as the active career home run leader with 679 career long balls. That places Pujols fifth on the all-time list, 17 away from tying Alex Rodriguez. Pujols feels he can still make a run at 700, a feat only accomplished by Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.
“When Albert Pujols gets tired of playing baseball, that’s it. I’m not going to go out there and embarrass myself,” Pujols said. “I’ve trained really hard and worked on my body to be able to have a good career. … I know what I can do.”