Stepping into a major league clubhouse for the first time can be an intimidating experience for any rookie. For Juan Yepez, who joined the St. Louis Cardinals on May 3 after spending the first month of the season in Triple-A Memphis, he was about to join a locker room full of some of the biggest stars in the game. Fortunately, he had a friendly face waiting to greet him as he walked through the visitor's side of Kauffman Stadium ahead of his major league debut a day later -- Albert Pujols.

"You look around, there's all these future Hall of Famers we have," Yepez said earlier this week. "But when I got called up in Kansas City, the first guy who saw me was Albert. He gave me a huge hug, said it was good to have me here.

"That meant the world to me."

Pujols has been many things to the game of baseball: Slugger. MVP. Gold Glove winner. World Series champion. But in his final season, mentor is the role he is embracing more than ever. Even in a leadership-laden Cardinals clubhouse, no one commands more respect than the 22-year MLB veteran. Now, as a part-time player, Pujols has more time to spend working with the team's younger players.

"This role I have is doing whatever I can to help this team out," Pujols said. "It's about leaving a mark. So many guys did it for me. It's almost like paying that favor forward to these guys."

Pujols, 42, is the oldest player in the majors. He has more than a decade on most players on the Cardinals' roster (an average age of 29.4 is raised by not just Pujols but 39-year-old Yadier Molina and 40-year-old Adam Wainwright, too).

"We knew bringing him in would help this clubhouse," Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. "He's super intentional about passing on what winning looks like to the young players. The reality is they're all young compared to him."

But the one who caught Pujols' eye this spring was Yepez, a 24-year-old whose journey to the majors started when he joined the Atlanta Braves organization out of Venezuela in 2015. Pujols took note of his work ethic, understanding of the game and mindset of never taking things for granted.