Los Angeles Angels: Grant Balfour
March, 5, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
PHOENIX -- A little more than four months ago, Albert Pujols was playing in Game 7 of the World Series. Monday afternoon, he was playing in a little ballpark surrounded by desert buttes and cacti, with fewer than 4,000 fans in the house.
He still had butterflies as he stretched in the outfield grass before the Angels’ 9-1 win over the Oakland A’s, Pujols’ Cactus League debut.
“This is my 13th spring training and I still feel it,” Pujols said. “If you feel like that, it means you’re getting yourself ready for the game. That’s something my dad always told me.”
And, besides, everything is new for Pujols this spring. He signed a 10-year, $250 million contract in December to change teams, leagues, time zones and media markets. After 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, who play their spring training games in Florida, Pujols is now an Angel, with 60-plus new teammates (for now), new surroundings and a whole new league full of pitchers.
The tiniest first step came Monday, when he went 2-for-3 with a couple of line-drive hits and an RBI, batted in each of the first three innings and played the field for four, two of them behind another Angel making his debut, pitcher C.J. Wilson.
“It was great,” Pujols said. “In spring training, you want to have good success and feel good about yourself for the season, but the most important thing is to prepare.”
Pujols didn’t win three MVP awards strictly on talent. The Angels already have gotten a sense of his drive, because he has been among the first players to arrive at their spring training clubhouse since the week before position players were required to arrive. They’ve seen his fierce, almost intimidating, concentration in the batting cage.