Days after agreeing to a 10-year free-agent contract with the Angels, first baseman Albert Pujols was officially introduced to fans and the media along with new Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson at a public event at Angel Stadium. Pujols, a three-time National League MVP, two-time World Series champion and nine-time All-Star, spoke with MLBPLAYERS.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When exactly did you make your decision to sign with the Angels?
Albert Pujols: I made the decision on Thursday. In the evening, around 7 or 7:30. Obviously, it was emotional. You play in a city for 11 years, and the city of St. Louis really embraced me and my family and my foundation. There was a lot of love and support. I was just a baby, a 21-year-old, and they helped turn me into a man. Knowing I had to go somewhere else was tough. I still love my fans back in St. Louis. My friends and family built a real family there. We knew we had to make a decision, and we switched to the Angels because we thought it was the right place to go, not for me just to play. I have heard a lot of great things about the fans and the community and the players. It was hard, at the same moment you want to be excited, but it was hard.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What did Angels owner Arte Moreno do in 48 hours that your old club, the Cardinals, could not do in two years?
Pujols: I am not going to get too involved in the negotiations because this is not about the negotiations. This about being an Angel today, this is about a different organization. I am going to do my best to help this organization win. With the phone calls I had with Moreno and the way he made me feel, it was about how badly he wanted me. I didn't know him, but when I made the decision he called me one of his partners. That means a lot. I am going to spend 10 years here, and I want to bring what I learned from the city of St. Louis over 11 years and embrace this and love it, and bring my charity work here.
MLBPLAYERS.com: For the people who have enjoyed watching you play in St. Louis for 11 years, if they have a hard time understanding your decision, is there something you can say to help them understand?
Pujols: It was hard for me, too. It's been hard for almost a year. You don't blame anybody, and I am not one who looks to blame. Obviously, you are going to have some people, some family and friends, who agree with you, and you are going to have some fans who do not. In the end, you can't control that. What I want the fans to know is that I love them, and I love the way they treated my family. I loved the support they gave me for 11 years, and I thank them for helping them make me the man I am today. I would not be if not for that city.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Can you describe your charitable foundation?
Pujols: It is the Pujols Family Foundation. We concentrate on faith, family and others. Our main goal, with my daughter Isabella who is 14 right now and has Down Syndrome, is to get involved. We did that in St. Louis, and we are going to continue that in St. Louis and we are going to bring that here. We do a lot of mission work in the Dominican Republic. We go to places that are hard to go to, but we go in there. That is my next step -- to try and find a place here for the season and to get comfortable. I want to get to know people and different charities and get involved. We all have responsibilities, and that is my responsibility. God has called me to do that and not just to perform on the field. It is about getting involved and giving back. That means a lot to me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your wife said that your daughter is looking forward to going to Disneyland again. Do you think this area will be an easy sell to your kids?
Pujols: Time will tell. Sophia is so young right now, and I don't know what she remembers, but we did go to Disneyland when we were here for the All-Star Game (in 2010). Obviously, during the season when they get off school and come here and get to spend some time, time will tell how they adjust. But I am sure it will be exciting.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you were making your decision, how much did coming to an American League club play into it knowing there is the designated-hitter role to help you stay fresh these next 10 years?
Pujols: I wasn't thinking about the DH. I know the way I take care of my body, and I know how to take care of myself to play this game. You never know what it going to happen 10 years from now, but the way I take care of my body I feel I can play until I am 45. Who knows? Time will tell, and when the time comes, I will concentrate on that. Right now I am concentrating on getting myself ready for Spring Training, and I am excited for Opening Day in Anaheim. I take it one year at a time, one game at a time, and there is no pressure. I will continue to do that.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Can you talk about getting on that plane and coming here, and the reception you received from the fans today?
Pujols: I was really excited. I got here Friday at about 10 o'clock. I went and did my physical almost for the whole day. I had dinner with Mr. Moreno and his family, and some other front office people in Jerry DiPoto (GM) and John Carpino (president). People were really excited at the place where we were eating. Up until now, it has been amazing. I can't wait to see how crazy it is going to be and how excited these fans are. I am looking forward and, hopefully, I stay healthy and continue to do what I love to do, which is to play the game.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How comfortable were you dealing with Arte Moreno, someone you said you never met?
Pujols: When you are talking to a guy you pretty much know. God has given me that wisdom. In talking with him, it was just everything. He wanted me really badly. That is who he is. When I talked to different players and found out a lit bit more about him, people love him here in Anaheim. Every where he goes, he is with the ballclub and it is about winning.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What were the last few hours like for you on Wednesday evening leading up to your decision?
Pujols: It was really emotional. It was really tough. I am not going to lie. Like I said, 11 years in St. Louis on some great teams bringing a lot of smiles. I prayed on the decision, and it really hit me hard. I felt that was where God was leading me. The thing is that I didn't want to make a decision on my own. I wanted to make sure God showed me the way and that is something I have done in the past. My wife and I prayed about it, and the Angels were really patient about it. I really respect them for that and for waiting because they knew they might lose the chance to go after C.J., too. We ended up getting him, and it is an exciting day for this organization.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Can you talk about the opportunity to play for manager Mike Scioscia?
Pujols: He has been a player, and he knows the game. He has been successful on this level, and he has obviously taught his guys how to play the game because I have seen it from the other side when we did face them during my career. I thank God that I am part of that, and I hope to bring more excitement to this city.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You signed a great contract, but since this process has taken awhile, did it become painful?
Pujols: I don't want the people of St. Louis to think this is all about the money. I had all the offers out there where people were throwing out a bunch of money. They are calling me a liar, and that is tough. I know what they are going through. They are losing someone who has been a part of the community. I feel for that. My wife and I felt that pain, too. At the same time, when that decision came, I was being obedient. I didn't want to go to a place where God wasn't calling me to go.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.