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Cardinals legend Albert Pujols reveals how Tony La Russa unlocked his Hall-of-Fame potential

Tony LaRussa helped unlock Albert Pujols’s legendary potential with a straightforward question. 

In a recent episode of Audacy’s Unwritten: Behind Baseball’s Secret Rules, Albert Pujols discussed how Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa unlocked his potential during his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001.

“He asked me ‘So Albert, I’m going to tell you something. What do you prefer: 30 home runs or hit .300?’ And I was like ‘30 home runs, Tony. Everybody wants to hit the ball out of the ballpark.’ Bzzzz. Rookie mistake. ‘I want you to focus on hitting .300. Because if you focus on hitting .300, I bet you you’re going to get your 30 home runs. I bet you you’re going to get your 100 RBI.’ And that was the case.”

That was the case, indeed.

In the podcast, Pujols added this about LaRussa:

“He never gave me the opportunity to think about the question that he was giving me. But if you look at it, if you really focus on hitting .300, how many chances are you going to have with men in scoring position and chance to drive runs and do some damage? A lot. You’re going to get more hits. You’re going to hit .300.”

From 2001-2010, Pujols hit over .300 for the Cardinals. He hit 30 or more home runs from 2001-12, adding another 40 home run season in 2015 during his time with the Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels.

Albert Pujols credits Tony LaRussa for unlocking his potential

It’s an unbelievable feat to get this in a season or two but to consistently hit these stats for over a decade is a thing for which legends are made. Pujols is still putting up impressive numbers in his final season, which he’s spending with the club where he started it all, the Cardinals. He’s hitting .260/.336/.504 with an OPS of .840 with 16 homers, putting him five away from an astonishing 700 home runs.

As for his relationship with LaRussa, that’s still going well, too. “Our relationship is like a father and son, 23 years later,” Pujols said. “And our relationship back then in 2001, I felt it hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s getting stronger and stronger every year.”

More of the Audacy podcast featuring Pujols can be heard here.

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