It was 20 years ago when Albert Pujols strolled into the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring-training complex for the first time, sharing a locker in a cramped clubhouse, and in awe while surrounded by major-league stars.
He was just a 21-year-old kid, and with only one season in the minors, figured if everything went well, he could open the year in Class AAA.
“I was the guy that wasn't even supposed to make the team,’’ Pujols tells USA TODAY Sports. “I got invited to spring training just to be around the big-league guys. I never thought I was going to make the team. But I'm a guy that if you open a door, you’re going to get the best out of me, and that’s what I did."
Pujols had a monster spring, 38-year-old veteran Bobby Bonilla pulled his hamstring, and Pujols was on the opening-day roster. He hit .329 with 37 homers, 130 RBI and a 1.013 OPS in his rookie season, and proceeded to become one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history.