Retired Albert Pujols happy to begin new role with Angels
Albert Pujols found himself in a familiar setting Tuesday, back at Angels spring training. Now happily retired from playing, Pujols, 43, is a special assistant to the club under his 10-year personal services contract.
"It's good just to be around, put the uniform back on and helping the young kids in the [batting] cage," Pujols said Wednesday of his first day at camp. "So it's a great time."
It was always his plan to rejoin the Angels in this capacity after his playing career. He also said that the St. Louis Cardinals, with whom he started and finished his career, did not make him a similar offer, likely because they knew he had a personal services contract with the Angels.
Anthony Rendon is hopeful he can finally stay healthy for the Angels and bolster a promising lineup led by Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani this season.
This is the first spring in decades that Pujols does not have to prepare for a season, and he's been enjoying his retirement.
"I don't miss anything about it," he said. "I was blessed to play for 23 years as a professional. I’m humbled. I would do it again if I had to but I’m really excited with where I’m at right now in my life."
Recently he was at the Super Bowl and he played in the celebrity game during NBA All-Star weekend.
"It's fun," he said, "because you realize all the good things you can do if you don't have a schedule for seven or eight months that you have to show up every day. … I enjoy being able to to be on my schedule and do the things that I love to do whether it's being with my family, taking them to the NBA All-Star Game, playing some golf, travel."
He's not ready for a role as a manager or a coach and likes his more casual role as a mentor. He’ll be at camp for a few days and then go to the Angels’ facility in his native Dominican Republic to mentor more young players.
"My job is just, the same way that a lot of other veteran guys helped me back in my early days," he said, "it's my job to help these guys out, to get better and be the superstar that they want to be.
"Hopefully, if I can help them out, one or two things here and there … credit goes to them, not to myself."
Pujols said he does not hold a grudge against the Angels for releasing him in May 2021.
"It's just part of the business. That's how it is," he said. "I’m happy to be back here."
He also said his relationship with team owner Arte Moreno has not changed, noting that Moreno sent him a congratulatory message after he reached 700 home runs.
Asked to compare this team to any of his teams that reached the playoffs — Pujols made it just one time with the Angels, in 2014, and nine times with the Cardinals and Dodgers — he highlighted the depth the Angels have.
Shohei Ohtani's agent wouldn't reveal whether he thinks the Angel star will be traded or retained by the team beyond this season.
"From the guys they signed in the offseason, which was really good signings," he said, "I think those are guys, if one of the big guys go down, some of those guys can step up. Not that you wish anybody to get hurt, but it happens. It's hard to keep a team healthy.
"When you look at that, that's what you need to do to win a championship. You have depth, and the minor leagues, you need to have depth on the bench. And I think this team is really equipped to do that."
As for any advice he could offer two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who is in the last year of his contract, Pujols said: "Shohei is a pretty unique player. I’m glad I’m not in the front office trying to make that decision or having the honor to try to sign Shohei. It's a lot of pressure.
"My encouragement to Shohei is to stay focused on trying to win a championship. That's why you have an agent, to discuss any business."