Albert Pujols uses his last season to mentor a budding St. Louis Cardinals pitcher

CHICAGO — It can be daunting for rookies to enter a major league teamhouse. For Juan YepezThe newest member of the St. Louis Cardinals He was about to enter a locker room with some of the greatest players in the game on May 3, after he had spent the first month of his season at Triple-A Memphis. As he entered Kauffman Stadium, the visitor's side, he was greeted by a friendly face. He was about to make his major league debut one day later. Albert Pujols.

Yepez stated earlier this week that “you look around, there are all these future Hall of Famer we have.” Albert was the first person to see me when I was called up in Kansas City. He gave me a big hug and said that it was great to have me here.

“This meant everything to me.”

Pujols is a slugger. MVP. Gold Glove winner. World Series Champion. In his final season, mentor will be a role he embraces more than ever. The 22-year MLB veteran commands the most respect in a Cardinals clubhouse that is dominated by leadership. Pujols now has more time as a part of the team's younger players.

Pujols stated, “This is my role. It's about helping this team out.” It's about making a difference. Many guys did it to me. It's almost as if I was paying back these guys.”

Pujols (42 years old) is the oldest major league player. He has more than a ten-year record on Cardinals players (an average age 29.4 is not just raised by Pujols but also 39-year olds). Yadier Molina 40-years-old Adam Wainwright, too).

Oliver Marmol, Cardinals manager said, “We knew that bringing him in would benefit this clubhouse.” He is very intentional about teaching the younger players what winning looks like. Their reality is that they are all younger than him.

Yepez, a 24-year old who started his journey to the majors when he joined The University of Texas at Austin. Atlanta Braves Venezuelan organization in 2015. Pujols praised his work ethic and understanding of the game, as well as his determination to never take things for granted.

Yepez has been taking in all the advice from Pujols so far. He posted a.796 OPS, belted four home runs, and saw time at first base as well as outfield corners and designated hitter.

Yepez still remembers that moment on May 26th, three weeks into Yepez’ major league career, when Pujols held their annual charity golf tournament.

“He met my fiancée and told her I was going to break all his records,” Yepez said. “I was like, ‘What? Are you crazy? It's impossible for me to see your numbers.”

“I wasn't kidding. Pujols stated that he believes he has the talent, ability and determination to succeed. He can do it, I believe. I can see the hard work and dedication he puts into it every day.”

Pujols did more than build Yepez' confidence. He was also open to playing the teacher role when needed, breaking down Yepez' at-bats on an iPad before heading to the batting cages where he could put his findings into practice.

Yepez said, “He took the time to teach and talk to me every single day.” He's looking at my iPad, watching my at-bats, and telling me “you have to do this or that.”

“He tells you what he thinks will work for me. Then we work together and it almost always works.”

Pujols is also enjoying the benefits of interfacing with so many people in the city where he spent his first 10 years as a major-leaguer.

Cardinals outfielder: “You are never too old to learn,” Corey Dickerson said. He has a lot knowledge. He studies. He asks questions. He listens to other people. He is a man of such stature and that's why he's so great.

It's early for Pujols to announce that he will be retiring from the major leagues in his last season. But he seems to be thriving as both an elder statesman and as a powerful platoon designated hitter/batter off the bench.

Pujols has an OPS of over 1.000 when faced with left-handed pitching. He also has four homers and on Tuesday, Pujols walked off the Padres after a sacrifice fly in bottom of the 10,Th inning. Pujols was able to display some youthful exuberance to his teammates during the walk-off.

Outfielder: “He was laughing in his high-pitched laughter while we were jumping onto him,” Harrison Bader recalled. “I will always remember his high-pitched laugh, ear-to ear smile, and all of his teeth. It's clear that it's a child's game, and it's difficult to see the point. Albert reminds us that.”

Pujols declared, “You have to have some fun.” “It's a blessing to be back at the place where it all began.”

While May and June may be celebrated, the goal for St. Louis is to play in October. It's the same as what the 2001 Cardinals did in that year when Pujols entered a clubhouse featuring stars like Jim Edmonds or Mark McGwire. Even though one of his current teammates wasn't old enough to recall the teams that reached the postseason in five out of six of Pujols first major league seasons, he will remember the influence of a St. Louis legend on his career.

Yepez smiled and said, “Albert Pujols has been playing ball since I was a child.” “He entered when I was just 3 years old!”

“It's unbelievable that he says all these nice things to me.

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