Trout says he ‘broke down’ over Pujols’ departure from Angels

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Mike Trout was cooling down after the Los Angeles Angels’ game when he was told Albert Pujols was hugging teammates in the locker room.

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.”

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.