Cairo witnessed Pujols' drive to be great from the start

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Acting White Sox manager Miguel Cairo celebrated Albert Pujols’ major milestone from afar this week, reaching out to the Cardinals slugger after he hit his 700th career home run Friday night.

“It was awesome,” Cairo said. “I texted him and congratulated him. It’s nice to see so many homers in his career. 

“I got a chance to play with him, so it was awesome.”

Cairo and Pujols were teammates on Tony La Russa's Cardinals from 2001-03 — Pujols’ first three big-league seasons — and the first baseman's numbers and accolades spoke for themselves.

Pujols won NL Rookie of the Year in 2001 and was NL MVP runner-up the next two seasons. A ridiculous start to a career, no doubt, but the way he carried himself as a young player also spoke volumes to Cairo

“Oh, he was intense,” Cairo said. “He wanted to be the best and he did it. He worked to be the best, elite, and you see all the numbers that he put up.

“Dedication, hard worker,” Cairo added of Pujols. “He is one of the smartest players, hitters, that I played with, that was my teammate. It was kind of cool to see that.”

Pujols hit a pair of homers Friday night against the Dodgers, joining Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth as the only players to ever hit 700 home runs.

Beyond the Hall of Fame resume he's put together, Pujols is having a remarkably strong 2022 season, his 22nd in the big leagues, at the age of 42. He entered Sunday hitting .265/.337/.526 with 21 homers and 58 RBIs in 102 games. 

Cairo said he’s “very shocked” by the level of production Pujols has sustained at this stage in his career. But if anyone has proven they can do what Pujols is doing, it's him.

“I’m going to tell you,” Cairo said, “he keeps himself in shape, and he still can do it. He proved that this year and he’s been proving that every year.”

And it didn't take long for him to start proving that 19 years ago in St. Louis.

"I’m so excited for him and his family that he reached that goal," Cairo said.

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