Trout tracked down Pujols inside Angel Stadium and learned the stunning news: His 41-year-old mentor and fellow three-time league MVP was leaving the team early in their 10th season together in Orange County.
“I broke down a little bit,” Trout said in his first public comments on the decision. “Just knowing that he’s been here for the whole time I’ve been here, and knowing it could be done just like that.”
The superstars’ decade-long partnership is over, and Trout is still stunned. The Angels designated Pujols for assignment after a late-night meeting between the team’s top brass and Pujols, who was disappointed about the prospect of not playing every day for the Halos, and eager to join a new team that would allow him to do so.
“It was tough,” Trout said. “I think we were all in shock when the news broke and when we found out about it. But after talking to Albert, and the competitor Albert is, he wants to play every day. You can tell when he’s not playing, he wants to be out there with the team. I hope he finds a team that can let him play every day and what his body allows him to do, because he’s a competitor. You want him out there. It was a tough situation, but Albert is in a good place, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Trout and Pujols have been together since 2012, when Trout was in his AL Rookie of the Year season and Pujols was in the first year of his $240 million free agent contract with the Angels.
While Trout grew into arguably the greatest player of the decade, he always had Pujols at his side for on-field support and off-field advice. Although Pujols’ numbers in Anaheim never matched those of his heyday in St. Louis – he is batting .198 this season with five homers in 24 games – Pujols could discuss the challenges and pitfalls of baseball superiority with Trout in a way only a few players in each generation can understand.
“Everything I went through, he went through,” Trout said. “Coming up, having success early, and when he went through a struggle – I don’t know if he really struggled in St. Louis that much – but just going through struggles and how to get through it. He always had a positive mindset.”
This partnership between a three-time NL MVP and an eventual three-time AL MVP seemed to be a surefire recipe for sustained team success, but the Angels have had none of it. The superstars’ nine full seasons together produced one playoff appearance – during which they were swept by Kansas City in 2014 – and ended with five consecutive losing seasons.
But Trout is confident he and Pujols both put in the work necessary to succeed. Trout acknowledges he even learned some of his determination from his mentor.
“Everything you can accomplish on a baseball field, he’s done,” Trout said. “It was something where I could go up to him and talk about anything. He knew if I’m struggling at the plate or struggling anywhere, he knows the perfect time to come up and throw something out. He knows what the right time is. He just has that feel. I can’t thank him enough. He’s an unbelievable person, unbelievable friend to me.”
Trout is off to a spectacular start to the current season. Heading into the weekend Freeway Series against the Dodgers at Angel Stadium, Trout was leading the majors with a .380 batting average and a 1.224 OPS along with eight homers and 17 RBIs.
But he’s going to need a bit longer to get over the departure of Pujols.
“It hit me a little bit,” Trout said. “It hit me a lot. Ever since I’ve been up here, he’s been my guy.”