“I don’t pay attention to that, man, especially during the season,” Pujols said after hitting career home run No. 521 in a 5-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. “My goal is to get ready to play and help the team win. At the end of my career, I’ll have plenty of time to look back and see what I accomplished.”
When told he had tied three Hall of Famers, Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas, for 18th place on baseball’s all-time homer list, Pujols’ voice took on a different, more reverent tone.
“I’m blessed to be able to share my name with those guys,” Pujols said. “If you told me 16 years ago when I got to this game that I would accomplish what I have, winning two World Series championships, hitting some home runs, getting some big hits, I couldn’t have imagined …
“That’s why I don’t like to talk about it. You saw last year when I approached 500 homers. It’s not about me, it’s about helping the organization, my teammates, to win. Along the way, because I’ve done that, I’ve had success.”
Pujols, 35, was hampered by injuries to his left foot and right knee during his first three years with the Angels, but he looked healthy and refreshed this spring after undergoing his normal strength-and-conditioning program over the winter.
Though he has only two hits in 11 at-bats in the first three games, the Angels believe he is primed for a big year with 2014 American League most valuable player Mike Trout hitting in front of him.
“This game is tough to play when you’re 100% -- imagine how hard it is when you have injuries,” Pujols said. “To be able to get into the weight room and do the things I did for 11-12 years prior to my injuries, it was pretty exciting. It was a different spring training for me because of that.
“When you come to spring training achy and sore around your knee or foot, that’s not a good feeling, especially when you know you have 162 games to get ready for. But I definitely feel better physically and mentally.”
Pujols was considered the game’s most dominant right-handed hitter for a solid decade, but he’s no longer considered the best hitter on his team. That, however, does not diminish his talent in any way.
“Mike has done so much that a lot of people overlook how good Albert has been—he’s still one of the top hitters in baseball,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Every homer that Albert hits there will be a little asterisk and an anecdote with the all-time greats. That’s a nice neighborhood to be in.”