Albert Pujols, 600

Albert Pujols became the ninth player in Major League Baseball history to eclipse 600 home runs in a career on Saturday night.

ANAHEIM -- An orphanage in Baltimore, little George is taking his first swings of a wooden bat. Fast forward some 80 years, and little Albert is doing the same on the island known as the Dominican Republic.

George would later become known as "Babe Ruth," who would set the bench mark of greatness in the realms of the baseball world. Transformed over 147 years, Ruth was a part of the early stages. Albert helped create the most recent era of the game.

The game can be broken into a simple format. A man with the talent of throwing a 5.25-ounce white ball does so as hard as he can, and an opposing man 60 feet and six inches away tries to connect with that same ball with a 31-ounce wooden stick.

By the day and year of June 3rd, 2017, the game would have been played at it's highest level 214,224 times. Only nine times had such a game occurred like the one Albert would make historic.

Albert Pujols has become a household name over his 17 years in the league, and Saturday night was his most monumental moment. The night he hit a ball over the outfield fences for the 600th time.

On Tuesday, Pujols hit his 599th home run, and began to struggle from that point on. The slugger went 2-for-16 with six strikeouts over a near four-game span. Just prior to his third at bat on Saturday, Pujols was inside the dugout and took a quick glance at his phone. A glowing message from a significant person in his life gave sound advice.

"My wife, she told me it's just another hit that you need to get," said Pujols in a post-game conference. "Don't look for a home run. She told me I need to stay back and just look for a good pitch to hit. I checked my phone and said I'm trying babe, but maybe just trying a little too hard."

In the fourth inning of a 3-1 game between the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins, Pujols clipped the ball and sent it high into the Orange County night. The ball peaked at 141 feet, and gravity began to pull the white orbit back towards the earth. It fell 363 feet later, in the arms of fans for a home run.

"I went out there and just stayed back and glad that I listened to her once in awhile," Pujols laughed.

Nine men out of 19,006 to put on a Major League uniform have been able to eclipse the 600 home run milestone, while none did so in the form of a grand slam.

"To be able to do it tonight in front of our fans and my family is pretty special," Pujols noted. "I didn't get to hit 500 here so I think it would be pretty special to do it tonight. At the end of the night it happened and we got the win and it felt great.

"I'm just glad to be on the list, whether it was a solo home run or a grand slam, I'm just glad it happened tonight. It's a pretty special feeling. You look at all the players that come through the league and play so long and to be able to be number nine on that list is a pretty special number."

Scott Steffel, 23, from Costa Mesa, California, is currently a Graphic Designer at the University of California - Fullerton. The young man reached his glove outward while tracking a baseball Saturday night, and it landed perfectly inside his Louisville Slugger mitt. The ball inside will forever be known as "#600."

With the help of his father and brother, Steffel was protected from having anyone take the ball from him, excluding one man. The ball wasn't taken though, but instead, handed into the palms of Pujols on the field following Saturday's game.

"All I wanted was to hand Albert his ball," said Steffel. "He deserves it. It's his big moment, I just happened to be the guy to catch it."

Babe Ruth was the first to reach the 600 home run mark in 1931, finishing his career with 714. That would later be surpassed by Hank Aaron, who hit 755 and hit his 600th in 1969. Later, Barry Bonds would take the title for most home runs in baseball's history, with 762, hitting his 600th in 2002.

The other five members of the illustrious club are Alex Rodriguez (696), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630), Sammy Sosa (609), and the most recent member prior to Pujols, Jim Thome (612), who hit his 600th home run in 2011.

Pujols became the fourth youngest to reach the bench mark, following Rodriguez (35), Ruth (36) and Aaron (37), which leaves the question if he could surpass Bonds for the most home runs in the history of the game?

Always in a humble spirit, it's something that rarely crosses the mind of Pujols, but a different goal set that all players share.

"We'll see when I'm done playing and done with my contract," said Pujols. "I'm being honest with you guys, I don't think about that. This game is already hard enough and when you're bringing stuff from outside or the guys you have to chase, you make it even tougher. For me, I try to block all the distraction and I know that if I stay healthy, I'll be passing some guys which is - don't get me wrong, it's an honor and privilege to be named in the same list and same sentence and those guys - but I really try to stay focused on my goal and that's to be the best teammate I can be and try to help this organization to win."

 

 


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