A look at Albert Pujols’ Canadian connections

St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols receives a standing ovation in his first at bat of his last series at Rogers Centre on July 26. Photo: ESPN Stats/Twitter

September 28, 2022

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

It seems fitting that Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.) was the first to congratulate Albert Pujols after the St. Louis Cardinals slugger belted his 700th major league home run in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on Friday.

After all, Clapp, who’s the Cardinals first base coach, was a teammate of Pujols in triple-A Memphis in the future Hall of Famer’s first pro season (2000) and again in 2001 in Pujols’ rookie big league campaign.

Cards first base coach Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.) congratulates Albert Pujols after Pujols’ 700th major league home run. Photo: Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

And Clapp isn’t the only Canuck on the Cardinals’ coaching staff that has a long history with Pujols. Cards bullpen catcher Jamie Pogue (Guelph, Ont.) played with Pujols on the slugger’s first pro team, the class-A Peoria Chiefs, in 2000.

Last night, Pujols, Clapp and Pogue were able to celebrate the Cardinals’ clinching the National League Central division title together.

Pujols has also had four other Canadian teammates with the Cardinals: Cody McKay (Vancouver, B.C., 2004), Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C., 2004-05), Blake Hawksworth (North Vancouver, B.C., 2009-10) and Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C., 2022).

A surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, Pujols has suited up for 12 of his 22 big league seasons with the Cardinals. On top of his 700 home runs, which rank fourth in major league history behind only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714), Pujols has also collected 3,378 hits (10th all-time) and is second all-time in total bases (6,195), third in RBIs (2,208) and fifth in doubles (685).

The 11-time All-Star, who was born in Santo Domingo, D.R., has captured six Silver Slugger awards, is a three-time National League MVP and owns two World Series rings.

Not bad for a player selected in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB draft out of Metropolitan Community College – Maple Woods in Kansas City, Mo.

Pujols was a 19-year-old third baseman when he was chosen by the Cardinals in the draft. There was little hype around him and his signing bonus was just $60,000. But he excelled in his first season in pro ball, batting a combined .314 with 19 home runs and 96 RBIs in 133 games between class-A, double-A and triple-A and never looked back.

In the spring of 2001, he was the Cardinals hottest hitter and gave manager Tony La Russa little choice but to keep him on the big league roster.

Having Clapp as a teammate and Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) as a coach during his first big league season are just two of his Canadian connections.

Here’s a rundown:

– Eight Canadians were selected ahead of Pujols in the 1999 MLB draft:

3Justin MorneauNew Westminster, BCMinnesota Twins
5Phil DeveyLachute, Que.Los Angeles Dodgers
6Erik BedardNavan, Ont.Baltimore Orioles
6Reggie LaplanteBeauport, Que.New York Yankees
10Todd ShiyukTsawwassen, BCSan Diego Padres
11Craig MunroeThornhill, Ont.Pittsburgh Pirates
11Chris BarskiLangley, BCCalifornia Angels
12Brad RogersNanaimo, BCBaltimore Orioles

-In December 2000, the Cardinals were shopping for a starting pitcher. They expressed interest in Montreal Expos right-hander Dustin Hermanson. The cost-conscious Expos were in the market for a third baseman and there’s some speculation online that they inquired about Pujols (who had played third base in his first pro season), but I haven’t found a reputable source that verifies this. What we can definitively say is that Pujols’ breakout minor league season opened the door for the Cards to deal their starting third baseman Fernando Tatis to the Expos, along with right-hander Britt Reames, for Hermanson and left-handed reliever Steve Kline.

-Pujols is one of only two active players (Miguel Cabrera is the other) to have hit a regular season home run in Olympic Stadium. The Expos left for Washington after the 2004 season.

-Pujols must have been sorry to bid adieu to the Big O. He batted .367 with two home runs, five doubles and seven RBIs in 12 games there.

-His first home run at Olympic Stadium came on August 7, 2001, during his rookie season. With 7,760 in attendance on a Tuesday night, Pujols, batting sixth and playing left field, belted a solo home run off Expos right-hander Javier Vazquez in the second inning in the Cards’ 3-1 win.

-He clubbed his second home run at The Big O in a Sunday afternoon contest on May 9, 2004. It was a two-run home run off Expos right-hander Claudio Vargas in the fourth inning in the Cardinals’ 5-2 win.

-Pujols also enjoyed hitting at the SkyDome/Rogers Centre over the years. In 30 games there, he batted .325 with seven home runs, seven doubles and 22 RBIs.

-His first home run at SkyDome occurred during an interleague matchup between the Cardinals and Blue Jays on June 14, 2005. It was a two-run shot off Miguel Batista in the ninth inning of a Cards’ 7-0 win. What’s also fun to note about that game is that Walker was batting after Pujols and he socked two home runs for the Cards.

-Pujols had to wait almost 10 years to wallop his second home run at Rogers Centre when he returned as a member of the Los Angeles Angels on May 18, 2015. In that contest, he socked a solo home run off Blue Jays right-hander Todd Redmond in the third inning of the Blue Jays’ 10-6 win.

-Pujols had one, two-home run game at Rogers Centre. It came with the Angels on July 30, 2017 when he hit a two-run home run off left-hander Cesar Valdez in the first inning and then a solo homer off Mike Bolsinger in the sixth. The Angels still managed to lose 11-10 to the Blue Jays.

-He hit his 686th career home run – and last home run at the Rogers Centre – on July 27. Batting cleanup behind O’Neill, Pujols clubbed a three-run home run off Trevor Richards in the fifth inning.  He finished the game 3-for-4 with three RBIs. The day prior, in his first at bat of the series, Rogers Centre fans gave him a standing ovation.

According to ESPN stats, the home run that Pujols hit at Rogers Centre on July 27 made him the oldest player, at 42 years, 192 days, ever to homer in the stadium.

-If pitchers were looking for advice on how to get Pujols out, they should have turned to right-hander John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.). Pujols was 0-for-14 with five strikeouts against Axford.

-Canadian left-handers Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) and Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.) were also successful against the legendary slugger. Pujols was 0-for-6 against Bedard and 0-for-4 against Cormier. He was also just 1-for-4 against Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.)

-Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) is the Canadian hurler who faced Pujols the most. Pujols was 21-for-62 (.339 batting average) with eight home runs, five doubles and 14 walks against Dempster.

-Pujols also had success against right-hander Chris Reitsma (Calgary, Alta.). He was 8-for-20 (.400 batting average) with a home run and four doubles against the Canuck righty.

-Pujols also hit well against Canuck southpaws Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) and Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.). He was 6-for-18 (.333 batting average) with seven walks, but no home runs, against Francis and 2-for-5 with two singles versus Albers.

– Pujols was also 3-for-6 with two doubles and a home run against right-hander Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) and 3-for-8 with a home run, a double and a triple versus righty Rich Harden (Victoria, B.C.).

8 thoughts on “A look at Albert Pujols’ Canadian connections

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  1. NIce rundown Kevin. Thank you for doing this. Some Canadians had his number and he crushed others. Baseball is the best.

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