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Albert Pujols on his New York roots

4/13/2012

Today's game will feature Albert Pujols' first swings at the new Yankee Stadium.

But Pujols isn't a newcomer to the biggest city in the United States. It was the first stop in his immigration from the Dominican Republic nearly 20 years ago. He, his father and grandmother landed in New York in 1996, when Pujols was 16. They lasted just a couple of months. Pujols saw a man shot at a grocery store and his family decided to live with relatives in Independence, Mo.

Pujols' memories of New York mainly are of fitting into a new culture -- he barely spoke English when he arrived -- and of the bitter cold. It was the dead of winter when they arrived, so Pujols didn't visit Yankee Stadium as a teenager.

"I still look at a picture that my aunt took when they came and got me at the airport with my dad," Pujols said. "That's something that really keeps you humble."

Pujols was booed rather lustily in his first-inning at-bat here, his .217 batting no doubt providing fodder for the bleacher creatures who relentlessly badger players at Yankee Stadium. He flew out to left field. Who knows, perhaps a series in baseball's highest-profile venue will ignite Pujols' bat. He was batting .182 after his first six games last year.

"He’s probably trying to get comfortable in the batter’s box, there are some pitchers he hasn't seen a lot that he's faced," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "but he's going to hit."