Pujols, Soto, Rodrìguez, and the Continuation of Dominican Baseball Excellence

We need to talk about Albert Pujols and the legacy he’s leaving behind.

On Monday, a 42-year-old Albert Pujols participated in the Home Run derby as an all-star weekend swan song. Earlier this year, Pujols returned to the St. Louis Cardinals on a one-year deal for his final season, and while many people thought Pujols’ inclusion in the derby was a gimmick, he actually advanced to the second round.

In case Pujols time with the star-studded but lowly Angels organization made you forget, this is one of the best baseball players we’ve ever seen.

Albert Pujols is a three-time MVP, two-time World Series champion, two-time golden glove winner, 11-time all-star, is fifth all-time in home runs, tenth all-time in hits, and  third all-time in runs batted in. 

Albert Pujols Introduced as a reserve player in his final All Star game (via MLB.com)

While I’m not like some stuffy baseball gatekeepers who turn their back on the players of the steroid era, it’s definitely worth noting that Pujols accomplished all this in the era of strict PED testing.

What I want to talk about most though is the fact that Pujols has set the stage for Dominican born baseball players to do exactly what he did- stand on the shoulders of giants and ultimately surpass them. Albert Pujols started his first all star game alongside Dominican legends like Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa and Vladimir Guerrero. 

On Monday, it was a pair of young Dominican superstars in Juan Soto and Julio Rodríguez that grabbed the torch from Pujols and showed that the future of baseball is bright. Soto, at just 23 years old, is in the process of captivating the nation with both his play on the field, and a stratospheric contract negotiation with the Washington Nationals that saw him turn down a $440 million contract.

Pujols made sure to let anyone that was listening know that he believes Juan Soto is a future Hall of Famer. Soto’s response? “He’s gonna make me cry.”

Julio Rodríguez, who finished second in the home run derby, but hit over 80 home runs in the contest, was awarded $50,000 more for finishing as runner up ($750,000) than he’ll make on the entire season ($700,000).

The 21-year old Rodríguez said of Pujols, “He’s a legend. It’s amazing that I’m here sharing the stage with him.”

Well Julio, the stage is now yours.  And the next generation of baseball fans, and children in the Dominican Republic, are watching. Time for you and Juan Soto to do what Albert did for you.