(Reuters) - Albert Pujols ended the long wait for his first home run with the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday but after crossing homeplate the nine-times All Star had no one in the dugout to celebrate with.
Pujols, a three-times National League MVP, signed a 10-year deal worth $240 million with the Angels in December and his sublime hitting prowess was expected to help the team become post-season contenders.
However, the 32-year-old Dominican has struggled to live up to his reputation as Major League Baseball’s most feared hitter and had gone 28 games without smashing a homer.
While he was pleased to end that drought with a two-run blast in the Angels’ 4-3 win over Toronto, the slugger said he did not feel any pressure despite batting just .196 this season.
“I put a good swing on it and hit it pretty good,” Pujols told reporters. “I don’t think anything has been lifted off my shoulders, man. I don’t think about what you guys write or what you think. I know what I‘m capable of doing.”
Instead of being greeted with euphoric team mates, however, Pujols was left staring at an empty dugout after the Angels players hid in the tunnel as he rounded the bases.
“It was just spur of the moment,” said Los Angeles outfielder Torii Hunter, who organized the practical joke. “I‘m happy that he got this lifted off of him. Now he can go out there and just swing and have fun.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford