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Mike Trout says he ‘broke down’ after hearing of Albert Pujols’ release

Albert Pujols, left, and Mike Trout before a game Aug. 17, 2019. The Angels released Pujols, 41, on Thursday.
Albert Pujols, left, and Mike Trout before a game Aug. 17, 2019. The Angels released Pujols, 41, on Thursday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Wednesday night was like any other for Mike Trout.

Then suddenly, it wasn’t.

Shortly after the Angels’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Trout was approached in the clubhouse by reliever Steve Cishek.

“Do you know if anything happened to Albert?” Trout remembered Cishek asking him. “He’s hugging some teammates.”

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Trout soon learned what the rest of the baseball world would find out a day later. In a surprise move, the Angels were releasing Albert Pujols. After 10 seasons together, Trout and Pujols would be teammates no more.

“We were all surprised when it happened,” Trout said. “You know, it hit me a little bit — it hit me a lot. Ever since I’ve been up here, he’s been my guy. He mentored me throughout my career so far.”

Even before Albert Pujols played in his first major league game, Mark McGwire predicted that the younger slugger would be a Hall of Fame player.

Trout later added: “I went out there and I broke down a little bit. Just knowing that, he’s been here for the whole time I’ve been here, and how it can be gone just like that. It was tough.”

During a videoconference with reporters Friday, Trout nostalgically reflected on a decade spent alongside a fellow three-time MVP — an influential mentorship Trout has lauded repeatedly throughout his career.

“Everything you can accomplish, on a baseball field, he’s done,” Trout said. “I can go up to him and talk about anything. If I was struggling at the plate, he knows the perfect time to come up and throw something out. He has that feel. I can’t thank him enough. He was an unbelievable person and unbelievable friend to me.”

Trout made his brief major league debut in 2011, before Pujols arrived in Anaheim. But once Trout returned to the Angels’ big league roster a month into the 2012 season, Pujols’ first of a 10-year, $240-million contract, the future Hall of Famers began to form what Trout described as a “special” connection.

“Growing up, watching him on TV, every time you turned ESPN on it was Albert and the Cardinals,” Trout said. “Walking into the same clubhouse and just feeling his presence and getting to know him … over the years we just built a relationship.”

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The Angels' Mike Trout, left, chats with Albert Pujols during a game Aug. 30, 2017.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

And it wasn’t just the length of the time they spent together that strengthened that bond. Their experiences were relatable, their careers following other-worldly trajectories few players in the sport have ever reached.

“Ten years ago, Michael was Albert,” Angels manager Joe Maddon would often think to himself. “It’s kind of crazy they’re both participating on the same team now.”

In 2012, Trout won a rookie of the year award, just as Pujols had with the St. Louis Cardinals 11 years earlier. In 2014, Trout won his first of his three MVPs, a mark that matches Pujols and eight other players for second-most in big league history.

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And as Trout cemented himself as the best player in baseball, a title Pujols had held years earlier, he couldn’t have had a more fitting teammate to learn from.

“He went through everything I went through,” Trout said. “Coming up, having success early. When he went through a struggle — and I don’t know if he ever really struggled in St. Louis that much — how to get through it. He’s always had a positive mindset. It’s pretty incredible the passion and the work he puts in to become the best.”

Albert Pujols was the best player in baseball when the Angels signed him in 2011, but he couldn’t match his accomplishments from his St. Louis days.

Just last week, Pujols echoed that warm sentiment while fielding several questions about Trout, who is off to perhaps the best start of his career.

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“He’s really humble. I love that about him. And he’s going to stay humble,” Pujols said, laughing. “Because if he doesn’t, I’m gonna come back and pull him by his ear — make sure he stays humble. But I just wish him the best. I’m really honored to have the opportunity to wear the same uniform every day.”

Now, that will no longer be the case. And after a decade together as constant presences in the Angels’ organization, there was never going to be an easy way to say goodbye.

“You never know what Albert has up his sleeve, it’s going to be interesting,” Trout said, adding: “I hope he finds a team that can let him play every day and what his body allows him to do. Because he’s a competitor. You want him out there. It was a tough situation, but Albert’s in a good place. And that’s all you can ask for.”


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