Last month, Will Smith watched Albert Pujols on the jumbotron congratulate him on winning the World Series during the Dodgers’ championship ring ceremony. Fast forward to May 20, and Smith was welcoming Pujols at the plate after scoring on home run No. 668 for the future Hall-of-Famer.
When Pujols made his major-league debut, Smith was only six years old. When he made his Angels debut, Smith was in high school. The Dodgers catcher has literally grown up watching Pujols play on TV. Now, they’re teammates.
“He told me he grew up watching me,” Pujols said to the media following Thursday’s game. “I told him ‘Please don’t, you’re making me feel older.’ It’s great. He’s pretty special. When he’s hitting in the cage, I keep my eye on him.
“Yesterday he was like, ‘What’s going on?’ He’s got a really special swing. He know what he wants to do at the plate. He’s really mature. He’s a heck of a catcher behind the plate. I think it’s great to be here. I feel like home.”
Not only is Smith getting to play with his childhood idol, he’s getting to bat in front of him.
“It’s been awesome,” Smith said on Thursday. “He’s been a presence from day one. He’s been great with me. He introduced himself and said if there were any questions, feel free to ask. Getting to see him work in the cage. It’s not every day you see one of the best hitters ever going through their cage routine. Seeing that is only going to make myself and everyone around here better.”
On Thursday night, both Smith and Pujols hit home runs. For one player, it was their 668th, for the other it was their 28th.
“That was special,” Smith said. “I’ll remember being on base when he hit his first homer as a Dodger. High-fiving him. It’s pretty surreal. I look at him as a teammate now, not an idol. He’s here to help us win a championship.”