Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
When Albert Pujols was unexpectedly released by the Los Angeles Angels last season, the Los Angeles Dodgers wasted no time adding the future Hall of Famer to their roster.
Pujols embraced a role off the bench, found success and rejuvenated his career. In addition to being productive on the field, he took on a leadership role inside the Dodgers clubhouse.
Justin Turner was among the players already familiar with Pujols due to having crossed paths with each other through respective charities, but being teammates provided him with a different perspective.
“I had gotten to know Albert over the years through charitable events. He always comes out to support the golf tournament and I supported a lot of his events,” Turner began.
“Getting to know him off the field was obviously awesome. And then as far as baseball player Albert Pujols, I knew him how everyone else did — through highlights, numbers on the back of his baseball card and whatnot. So those three months last year for me, getting to know him as a baseball player was pretty special.
“It seemed like he was rejuvenated and found his love of baseball. I can’t really speak to everything that went over down the freeway and what he was feeling down there, but I know he was excited to be here. He was one of the first guys to the field every day, he was in the cage working on his swing and open to adjustments.
“You would think that most Hall of Famers probably aren’t too open to having hitting guys give him suggestions, but he was open. He put in the work, and I think it set a tone in the clubhouse. Not just for the young guys or Latin guys, but for everyone. Like, ‘Hey, this is what a Hall of Famer looks like. This is the work ethic of a Hall of Famer.’ Couldn’t be more proud of him, couldn’t be more happy for him.”
Pujols hit .254/.299/.460 with three doubles, 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 85 games for the Dodgers last season.
The 42-year-old went on to sign a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals in free agency, whom he played the first 11 seasons of his career.
In his final MLB season as a player, Pujols made history at Dodger Stadium he became just the fourth player to reach 700 career home runs.
Albert Pujols: 700 home runs not possible without playing for Dodgers
After joining the 700 club, Pujols credited the Dodgers for making the milestone possible.
“I think when you have an organization that has your back, which the Dodgers did give me that opportunity and believe in me, knowing I was able to help the organization a lot last year with the role I was given. It opened the door for me to have the Cardinals going after me,” Pujols said, surrounded by his children.
“I was talking to Friedman and Doc in batting practice, if they wouldn’t have given me that opportunity, I don’t think I would be sitting here today. Because of that and the way they respected me, the whole coaching staff, whole organization from the owner all the way down, it was pretty amazing moment. It allowed me to really find that joy in this game.
“What a special night. First of all, to have my family in town and be able to do it here at Dodger Stadium, where I said it earlier, my joy pretty much came back last year being in the postseason and the clubhouse a few feet away from here. It’s pretty special.
“Especially with the Dodger fans, so they get to enjoy this, and to do it in a Cardinals uniform, it’s special. Just pretty awesome. I was thanking God while I was running around the bases for allowing me to do this, especially with my family around.”
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