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Examiner
  • Pujols still returning favor to Mihlfeld

  • Long before Fort Osage High School graduate Albert Pujols became a three-time National League MVP, World Series champion and future Hall of Famer, he was an 18-year-old kid looking for direction.

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  • Long before Fort Osage High School graduate Albert Pujols became a three-time National League MVP, World Series champion and future Hall of Famer, he was an 18-year-old kid looking for direction.
    He received help and guidance from a coach at Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods who has become one of the most important individuals in Pujols’ life.
    More than 13 years ago, Pujols told Chris Mihlfeld that if he could ever do anything to repay him for his help and guidance he would.
    That’s why the perennial all-star, who starred for more than a decade with the St. Louis Cardinals before signing last season with the Los Angeles Angels, is conducting a hitting clinic from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at MCC-Maple Woods Sports Training Center.
    “I was the baseball coach at Maple Woods and got to know Albert pretty well,” said Mihlfeld, who later became a strength and conditioning coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals. “Albert came to Maple Woods in 1998 and I left in December of that year and I remember him calling me saying, ‘You left me.’
    “But I told him that I would always be there for him, and I have been. And he’s always been there for me. My wife says that we’re such good friends because we’re so much alike – we have a hard outside, but we’re soft inside.”
    That softness is never more evident than when Pujols visits Mihlfeld and his staff at Millhouse AEP.
    “Albert has a lot of fun at these clinics, and we are so lucky to have him come back as often as he has,” Mihlfeld said. “I’m pretty sure he’s come back to town and done these clinics eight of the last nine or nine of the last 10 years – which is amazing when you consider how busy he is.
    “He now has his (Pujols Family) foundations in Nashville, Kansas City, St. Louis and Anaheim, and he plays a big role in each of the foundations. He and (wife) Dee Dee still have family in the area and they get back to town around the holidays and we always try to book a time to have the clinic.
    “He puts 100 percent of himself into the clinic. It’s not just a photo op for the kids to get a picture taken with Albert. I’ve told him many times that he knows as much about hitting as any coach I’ve been around and that when he’s done playing, which we all hope is a long, long time, he would be a natural as a coach.”
    When Pujols left the Cardinals before the start of the 2012 season and signed a huge free-agent contract with the Angels, Mihlfeld was one of the firstindividuals he called.
    Page 2 of 2 - “He told me, ‘The Angels!’ And I said, ‘The Angels?’ I flipped out I was so happy,” said Mihlfeld, who became good friends with Angels manager Mike Scioscia when they were both part of the Dodgers organization.
    Angels owner Arte Moreno flew Mihlfeld out to the press conference announcing Pujols’ signing on his private jet.
    “It’s a great fit for Albert and I know he’s happy in Anaheim,” Mihlfeld said. “And we’re thrilled that he’s coming back home this Friday.”
     
     
     
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