WASHINGTON (AP) In the hours after Albert Pujols hit his 500th career homer, his cellphone kept buzzing early into Wednesday morning.
There were texts and calls from the likes of fellow players David Ortiz and Derek Jeter. And there was a conversation with his first manager in the big leagues, Tony La Russa.
”I talked to Tony last night for 25 minutes,” Pujols said before his Los Angeles Angels played the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night. ”He kept mentioning … 2001, Day 1, when I was making the ballclub and all that.”
Pujols connected twice off Taylor Jordan on Tuesday in Los Angeles’ 7-2 victory at Washington, becoming the 26th player with 500 homers in the majors – and the first to hit No. 499 and No. 500 in the same game.
”Being No. 26, it says everything,” he said. ”I mean look at all the great players that put a big league uniform on and some of them were really close to getting to 500. But that’s a huge number.”
He was asked Wednesday whether he can get to 700.
”What kind of question is that? Right now, it’s one day at a time. You can’t read the future. My goal is still going to be the same goal that I had from Day 1 and that’s about winning,” Pujols responded.
”Before you get to 700, you’ve got to get to 501 and 600. So you can’t go all the way to 700 in one at-bat. I don’t play for numbers. I play to try to win championships.”
In his third season with the Angels, Pujols is looking more like the slugger who won two World Series and three NL MVP awards in 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Entering Wednesday night’s game, the 34-year-old first baseman led the majors in homers with eight and was tied for third in RBIs with 19. Thanks partly to that production, the Angels have hovered around .500 despite early injuries to Josh Hamilton (thumb) and Kole Calhoun (ankle) that landed both on the 15-day disabled list.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has seen his fair share of milestones, including catching during Dodgers teammate Orel Hershiser’s streak of 59 scoreless innings pitched.
Had Pujols’ chase been drawn out longer, Scioscia said, the slugger still would have been the same guy in the clubhouse and the batter’s box.
”It could’ve been a potential distraction,” Scioscia said. ”But I don’t think Albert would’ve made it a distraction. He wouldn’t let anybody on the team make it a distraction.”