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Angels’ dugout prank on Pujols could be just what team needs to turn it around

May 7, 2012

Albert Pujols finally hit his first home run as an Angel, 111 at bats into the season. It came in the home half of the fifth inning in a 4-0 Angels win over the Toronto Blue Jays, but No. 5’s post-home run homecoming was unlike any other he’s ever experienced in the Major Leagues.

There was no one there to congratulate him. No high-fives, no pats on the back, no words of support. Just an empty bench.

Chalk one up for Angels’ right fielder Torii Hunter, who organized the impromptu prank after Pujols hit a blast over the left field bullpen. The players all headed for the tunnel as Pujols rounded the bases.

Hunter thought up the joke on a whim. "It was just spur of the moment," Hunter told reporters. "I'm happy that he got this lifted off of him. Now he can go out there and just swing and have fun."

Longtime Punditty Project readers know that we here at TPP have kept a close eye on Pujols since 2008, when TPP made its debut on Allvoices. In his 11 years in St. Louis, Pujols was a city icon, the face of a franchise for a team that has featured some of the most legendary players in the game’s history, including Stan “The Man” Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith.

TPP has had some fun at Pujols’ expense since he left St. Louis, but in all seriousness, look for the nine-time National League All-Star to turn it up a notch now. He should be hitting a solid .270 by the All-Star Break, with at least a dozen home runs and 40 or so RBIs. By the end of the season, he should be close to the Champ Summers-type numbers the crystal ball projected for him in December of 2011: 24 HRs, 68 RBIs, and a .287 batting average.

And while Pujols is still below the Mendoza Line after Sunday’s two-run blast, the Angels’ victory, coupled with a loss by the division-leading Texas Rangers, leaves the Halos only 6.5 games out of first.

There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and anything can happen. Hunter’s spontaneous prank may well have done more for Pujols – and the Angels – to get back on track than any extra batting practice or game film reviews could ever hope to achieve.

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SOURCES & RESOURCES:

Pujols ends drought with first homer of the season, Reuters, May 7, 2012

Albert Pujols player page at espn.com

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