Albert Pujols, 41, has likely already experienced his best days as a baseball player, and what glorious days they were. But the Los Angeles Dodgers are very clearly happy to have him, anyway.
“It’s been awesome,” Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw told reporters of Pujols’ presence. “I think you take for granted the experience factor. Just seeing a guy like Albert Pujols in your clubhouse, it’s a great feeling.”
“His track record speaks for itself but just the attitude and personality he brings to the clubhouse every day, he seems really excited to be here in his role. And he’s a wealth of knowledge. He’s going to help a lot of our young guys on the bench try to figure out how to do that. And then there’s something to be said when he comes up to bat with guys on base.”
Pujols was released by the LA Angels earlier this month and cleared waivers on May 13. He signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers four days later. Three days after that, he blasted a two-run homer in the second inning of a Dodgers’ 3-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“We got him not only because we expect him to perform on the field, but his impact with our guys has been immediate,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. ““I guess you could kind of say everyone is on their best behavior when he’s around, and I say that a little tongue in cheek.”
Pujols is a 10-time All-Star and three-time NL MVP. He is someone many of the players looked up to during their formative years.
“The way he prepares each day, his demeanor, guys want to kind of please him because he sets the bar,” Roberts said. “That’s a Hall of Fame bar, so I think the level of play and focus — which has always been good — Albert has enhanced that.
“I think Albert would argue he’s more energized by being a Dodger and being around his teammates than he’s infusing into our guys. I think for me personally, I think we’re getting a lot of the benefit. Just seeing the conversations, his joy around the ballpark, his tones, I know he’s kind of revitalized. Yeah, he’s been with a couple other ballclubs throughout his career, but this is a resurgence and I know he wouldn’t rather be any place in the world right now.”
Added Kershaw, ““You know there’s no panic or stress in him. He knows exactly what he can do. He said it himself. He’s got a lot left in the tank. He still hits the ball really, really hard. So I think it’s a great pickup for us. I’ve known him a little bit off and on over the years. I just have a tremendous amount of respect for him and everything he’s done, and as a person as well.”