Albert Pujols plans to get the most out of next week’s All-Star festivities in Cincinnati. Not only will the Angels slugger start at first base for the American League in Tuesday night’s game, he will participate in Monday's home run derby.
"I enjoy it," said Pujols, a 10-time All-Star who did the home run derby in 2003, 2007 and 2009. "I take it like regular batting practice ... except you have 50,000 people watching you and you don't have a cage.
"You have a lot of cameras around you. It's like teeing off at a PGA tournament, when you have so many people on top of you, but I've enjoyed every single one I've done, and I’m happy to be back."
Mike Trout, who hit his 22nd homer in the second inning, remained undecided on the event as of Tuesday, but one person familiar with the Angels center fielder’s thinking said he is “leaning against” participating.
"I'm still thinking about it," Trout said before the game at Coors Field. "I've talked to some people about it. Everyone wants me to do it. I haven’t decided yet. I’ll probably know by [Wednesday]."
It wasn't a difficult decision for Pujols. His 14-year-old son, A.J., has encouraged him for weeks to participate in the home run derby, and Pujols is looking forward to having A.J. and his 6-year-old son, Ezra, on the field with him.
"The whole reason to do it is because the kids asked me to do it, and hopefully I can put on a good show for the fans," Pujols said. "A.J. was excited. He’s pretty pumped up because he’s going to be on the field. He enjoys being around the guys. It will be a good experience for my 6-year-old, too."
Angels bench coach Dino Ebel will pitch to Pujols in the derby. Ebel also threw to Vladimir Guerrero when the former Angels slugger won the derby in 2007.
Under the new derby format, each batter will have five minutes to hit as many homers as possible, and swings that don’t result in homers won’t be counted. Batters will be awarded bonus time based on the lengths of their homers.
"I don't know much about the new format," Pujols said. "I think, if anything, it will be better because you won’t have to sit around as much as you did in the past."
Some players avoid the home run derby because they fear it could negatively affect their swing, but Pujols, who has never won the derby, has no such concerns.
He won the batting title in 2003 with a .359 average to go with 43 homers, 51 doubles and 124 runs batted in. He had a second-half OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.081 in 2007, when he hit .327 with 32 homers and 103 RBIs, and he won National League most-valuable-player honors in 2009, when he hit .327 with 47 homers and 135 RBIs.
"I don't believe the home run derby is going to ruin your swing or anything like that," Pujols said. "It's just whether you feel comfortable doing it. A lot of guys don't like to do it, and a lot of guys have a problem doing it. I enjoy it."
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna