Fellow players, fans applaud 'The Machine'
The occasion of Albert Pujols' 600th home run served as a good opportunity for people who have watched the exemplary way the slugger has gone about his business on and off the field over the past 17 seasons to offer praises.
The 37-year-old Dominican has gained the admiration of his fellow players and fans for much more than his prodigious power. Within baseball, Pujols is universally lauded for the total focus with which he approaches the game on the field – the way he prepares, the way he plays defense, the way he runs the bases and his quiet brand of leadership by example – as well as his sense of responsibility in the community.
On Saturday night, Pujols, hit No. 600 with an exclamation point, crashing a grand slam in the fourth inning of a 7-2 win over the Minnesota Twins that landed in the left-field porch at Angel Stadium.
“I want to congratulate Albert on doing what only eight other men have been able to accomplish in the 141-year history of Major League Baseball,” MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said in a statement. “His on-field accomplishments, as well as his contributions and compassion off it, continue to elicit our respect and admiration as baseball fans. I wish him all the best as he rewrites the record books and continues his Hall of Fame worthy career."
Pujols, the only player to hit at least 30 homers in each of his first 12 seasons, is just the ninth to hit 600 home runs, joining Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Alex Rodriguez (696), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Jim Thome (612) and Sammy Sosa (609).
"I'm just glad to be on that list, man," Pujols said. "Whether it was a solo homer, a grand slam, I'm just glad that it happened tonight. It's a pretty special feeling. You look at the other players that come through the league and play so long, to be able to be No. 9 in that list is a pretty special number."
Congratulations and high praise came from all corners of the baseball world following the home run.
Fellow Dominican Ervin Santana, who surrendered the fourth-inning shot on a slider over the plate before more than 40,000 fans at Angel Stadium who were already standing and cheering in anticipation, noted that he was among many pitchers Pujols has clobbered over the years.
“He's very nice and very humble,” Santana said afterward. “He always worked hard, and you can tell. He's 'The Machine.'"
All-Star center fielder Mike Trout, who has played alongside the three-time MVP since his rookie season with the Angels, has admired his teammate from the beginning.
“It's pretty incredible,” Trout said. “Each night he gets a hit or gets an RBI, he's passing somebody. (On Thursday) he passed Babe Ruth in hits. I think that's pretty special. It's remarkable, his career so far. He's got a lot of baseball left, but I think the biggest thing is 600. That's special.”
Even Scott Steffel, the 23-year-old graphic designer who brought his glove to the game and caught the milestone home run ball, was eager to congratulate Pujols and return the coveted souvenir.
"All I wanted to do was hand Albert his ball," Steffel said. "He deserves it. It's his big moment. I just happened to be the guy to catch it."