Derby a family affair for Pujols
Cardinals slugger decides to take part at behest of his son, A.J.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Albert Pujols had no intention of participating in the State Farm Home Run Derby. He resisted one entreaty after another from Major League Baseball. But there was one request the slugger could not resist: that of his son, A.J.
"[MLB has] been calling me the last couple of days, asking me if I want to do it," Pujols said Sunday. "I thought about it last night, talking with my agent and my wife and my kids. A.J [asked] me yesterday before I came to the park, 'Daddy, are you going to be in the Home Run Derby?' And I told him, 'No.' He was pretty bummed out and disappointed.
"They called again and asked me and I'm like, 'I'm just going to go out there and have fun and hopefully put a show for the fans.' Why not? It's an All-Star Game, and I did it once and enjoyed it."
So despite initially asserting that he would not play, and despite a body that could use a break and despite a history of limited success at AT&T Park, Pujols will swing away on Monday night. It will be Pujols' second Derby appearance in his sixth trip to the Midsummer Classic.
He dominated the 2003 event but didn't win, ripping a total of 26 homers but coming in second to Garret Anderson when Anderson beat him in the final round, 9-8. He was not initially invited to participate in the 2004 Derby, however, and when a backup invite came later, he declined.
Pujols initially expressed reservations about swinging in this year's event, not so much because of the events in 2004 but because of a desire to rest his body. The Derby can be an extremely strenuous event if a player lasts deep into the tournament.
When teammate Jim Edmonds participated in the 2005 Derby, he aggravated a shoulder injury and saw his hitting decline in the second half. Eventually, though, Pujols came around.
"You want to get your rest," Pujols said. "It's been a long season from Spring Training until now. You put all those things together, and you look at yourself and ask if you need the rest for the second half. Those are the things that come to your mind. But if you feel good and your body is telling you to do it and your mind, why not? Have fun with it."
Still, there remains some question as to how much fun Pujols will have. Although it's rarely wise to doubt the 2005 National League MVP, he doesn't exactly come in as the favorite in this year's event.
The downtown San Francisco ballpark has been one of Pujols' worst throughout his career. He's a lifetime .253 hitter (19-for-75) at AT&T Park with two home runs. Additionally, Pujols finds himself in the longest stretch without a home run he's ever endured. He's gone 74 at-bats without leaving the yard, dating back to June 14 in Kansas City.
Still, he'll take his hacks, and maybe with some encouragement from A.J., he'll rise to the occasion again.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter Daniel Berk contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.