Pujols takes swings on 'Late Show'
Slugger chats with Letterman, faces pitching of Denis Leary
Albert Pujols proved ready for his close-up Monday, when the three-time National League Most Valuable Player showed up as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman. Pujols, in New York for a series against the Mets that begins Tuesday, spent time chatting with Letterman and later took batting practice against fellow guest Denis Leary.
But early in the interview, Pujols told the capacity audience what they could expect from the impending series.
"We play the Mets in Spring Training about 10-13 games, and they have great players in David Wright and Jose Reyes," said Pujols, a nine-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger. "And now Carlos Beltran is back. It's going to be a great series."
Pujols, who's battling neck-and-neck with Ichiro Suzuki for the highest career batting average (both are .331) among active players, told Letterman that he grew up rooting for the Braves in his native Dominican Republic. The active leader in on-base (.426) and slugging percentage (.623), Pujols also gave Letterman a small glimpse inside his approach at the plate.
"I don't like to guess. I trust my hands," he said. "When everything's going well -- when you feel good at the plate -- yes, you see that ball like a softball. But when you don't feel good at the plate ... the ball looks like a lemon. That's how small it is."
Pujols said that he didn't begin playing organized baseball until he was nine or 10 years old, and he said that his 9-year-old son is just beginning to start his own amateur career. The first baseman said that his son has boundless energy, and that he sometimes gets worn out from feeding him batting practice and watching him do on-field activities before the game.
More importantly, though, Pujols hopes his son learns the same baseball lessons that have impacted his life.
"Sometimes, I need to control his attitude," he said. "He thinks that he has to hit base hits all the time, and when he strikes out, you know how that is. Kids want to throw bats and helmets, so I have to tell him, 'Hey, you don't do that.'"
Letterman also asked Pujols, who has led the league in home runs and batting average once each, if it's true that the talent level in baseball is currently at an all-time high. In the slugger's mind, there's no question about it.
"There's so much talent right now," he said. "I always talk to Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith in Spring Training, and I say, 'Hey, we've got more talent now than back when you guys played.' We make jokes, and they say, 'No way.' But right now, you have a guy coming out of the bullpen and throwing 97 mph, and there's no effort. It's nice and easy. And that's tough."
Letterman, true to his conversational nature, asked Pujols how he'd match up against Gibson -- long thought of as one of the most competitive players in baseball history. And in response, Pujols issued one of his biggest laugh lines.
"He told us in Spring Training, 'If I had to face you, I'd throw one right at your head. And if you look at me, I'll throw you one back again,'" said Pujols, relaying the details of a conversation with Gibson. "I was like, 'I'm glad I don't have to face him.'"
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.