Big League Stew

Albert Pujols hits first homer of season, returns to empty Angels dugout (VIDEO)

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Everyone was waiting for Albert Pujols to hit his first home run as a Los Angeles Angel.

But only a trio of teammates were actually around to congratulate him when he finally did it.

In a well-timed bit of cold shoulder comedy, most of the Halos headed into the clubhouse so Pujols would return to an empty dugout instead of a celebration. Only Mike Trout, Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo — who were already on the field — gave Pujols an initial round of high fives after he ended his season-long drought with a blast off Toronto's Drew Hutchison in the fifth inning of Sunday's 4-3 win over the Blue Jays.

Watch as Pujols gets the rally monkey off his back:

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The dugout evacuation was apparently the brainchild of Torii Hunter, who quickly pushed his teammates toward the doorway as Pujols rounded the bases. But they returned once Pujols barreled toward the clubhouse in search of more people to party with.

''I thought that would be cool. I always wanted to do that, and it worked,'' Hunter told reporters after the game. ''I just said: 'Let's get off the bench and go to the tunnel.' He was excited about it and we were, too. We had to think fast. When I have a day off, man, I do stupid stuff.''

As you might have heard, Pujols had played 28 regular-season games and taken 110 at-bats as an Angel without showing the power that earned him a 10-year, $240 million contract in the offseason.

[Also: Injured Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera vows to return | Jeff Passan: Superman broke]

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(AP)

And though he hit three homers in one World Series game and seven more in spring training, Pujols hadn't homered in a regular season game since last Sept. 22 — a stretch of 33 games and 139 at-bats that qualified as the longest of his career. It all led to countless words being spilled on blogs like this one, a round of emo photos providing plenty of opportunity for schadenfreude and even Pujols being benched on Saturday night — a situation that drew tongue-in-cheek comparisons to Wally Pipp when Trumbo hit a homer in his stead. Pujols said he was glad he finally got the homer in front of the Angels fans before the team heads to Minnesota on a road trip, even if some of the home fans have been booing him as his batting average dipped below .200.

''The last three weeks here, the fans have wanted to see it, and I'm blessed that I got the opportunity to do it here in front of them,'' Pujols said. ''They've been waiting and they've been impatient, and the last couple of days I heard some boos out there, but that's part of it. I touched on that the other day. If I could boo myself, I'd do it myself, too."

The boos, however, temporarily turned to cheers as Pujols' homer landed in the left-field stands at Angel Stadium. The highlight also reportedly drew a positive reaction from the Cardinals clubhouse down in Houston, where Pujols' old teammates had just completed their own game.

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