Pujols a mentor to Marlins' Ramirez
Established superstar provides advice for rising shortstop
ST. LOUIS -- When you see Albert Pujols on television, in the heat of a game, you won't often see him smile. His effect at the plate and on the bases is often almost grim, a fierce competitiveness on his face.
Catch him during pregame warm-ups, though, and you're likely to see something different. On Tuesday afternoon, prior to the Cardinals' 2-1 loss to the Marlins, Pujols could be seen cutting up with the Marlins' rising young star, Hanley Ramirez. The two are friendly, if not dear friends, and Pujols enjoys being able to lend a hand as Ramirez, 25, arrives among the game's top players.
"Just like I do with everybody who's young in this game," Pujols said. "It can be from my team or the opposite side. I just want everybody to progress and have a great career. He's one of the guys right now, he's one of the best shortstops in the game. He has a lot of future if he can stay healthy."
Ramirez is one of the challengers, if in fact there are any challengers, to Pujols, as the slugger closes in on what may well be his third National League Most Valuable Player Award. And the youngster certainly looks up to Pujols, who will turn 30 this winter.
"[Pujols] is No. 1 in the National League," Ramirez said. "He's a good player."
He's even given Ramirez some hitting pointers.
"He just told me something, and I did it," Ramirez said. "It worked for me. I think it worked for him, too. I asked him, 'What do you do with runners in scoring position?' He told me. I try to do what he does."
Ramirez was cagey about what exactly Pujols told him. Pujols, meanwhile, said he emphasizes an overall approach rather than anything tactical or mechanical.
"When you see a guy like that have success early in his career, you encourage him to never change," Pujols said. "Just keep it the same, you know? That's something that I tried to encourage him. That's most important to me. That's more important than any hitting advice that I can give. I know how important that is. He has done that. He's the same kid that I've known for the last five years."
And a very, very talented kid at that. Pujols is widely acknowledged as not only the best but one of the most complete players in the game. Yet even he marvels at the range of skills that Ramirez has.
"He's a big guy," Pujols said. "He knows that he's strong enough to hit the ball out of the park -- any park. He doesn't have to pull the ball or anything. He can hit the ball for power from corner to corner in any ballpark. He has more tools than I have. He can run, he has a great arm, he plays a position that you're expecting a lot from."
Still, Pujols remains the National League's reigning star. Another MVP Award looks to be in the offing, and he's on his way to a sixth trip to the postseason in nine seasons. And if he can help his team navigate October for a third pennant in six years, or better yet, a second World Series title in four years, he'll be grinning ear to ear.
"It's obviously pretty special what we've been doing," Pujols said, "but our main goal is to try to get to the World Series and win it. If we don't accomplish that, it doesn't matter what kind of season we have. If you don't accomplish your goal, you're going to have a disappointing season."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.