Pujols’s St. Louis Restaurant Staff Braces for Local Backlash

Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- The news that Albert Pujols was joining the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent was felt today throughout Major League Baseball -- and at the three-time Most Valuable Player’s St. Louis restaurant.

Workers at Pujols 5, partly owned by the nine-time All-Star first baseman with the St. Louis Cardinals, said they were thinking about how customers will react to his departure.

“Will it affect our business here?” Pat Hanon, the restaurant’s manager, said in a telephone interview. “I’d be kidding you if I didn’t think so.”

The restaurant’s name includes the player’s uniform number. The menu lists several items labeled “Albert’s Favorite,” such as shrimp tacos and Tahitian vanilla creme brulee.

Pujols is the most popular athlete in St. Louis, home for his entire 11-year Major League Baseball career. The 31-year-old agreed this morning to a 10-year contract with the Angels that will pay him between $250 million and $260 million, Yahoo Sports reported, citing a person it didn’t identify. It would be the third largest contract in baseball history, trailing Alex Rodriguez’s agreements in 2007 with the New York Yankees and 2000 with the Texas Rangers.

“We’re talking about an iconic offensive player,” Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said during a news conference in Dallas announcing the deal, declining to disclose financial terms. “It’s a very exciting day for the Angels community, Southern California as a whole.”

The Cardinals offered Pujols $220 million over 10 years, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The team hasn’t commented on his departure.

‘National Figure’

“Albert was a national figure,” said Hanon, 65. “He’s iconic. Once St. Louis gets through their knee-jerk situation, things will settle back and they’ll understand there was a big difference, an iconic difference, between what the Cardinals offered and what the Angels offered.”

Few players have become as closely identified with their franchise as Pujols was with the Cardinals, who won the World Series this past season, when he hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 runs batted in. Pujols was paid about $14.5 million last season.

Pujols has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting in each of his 11 seasons. He has hit at least 32 home runs each season in the major leagues, and 2011 was the first time that he failed to drive in 100 runs.

Five-Year Partner

Hanon said the restaurant has been in business for more than 29 years, the past five with Pujols as a partner. The player would eat a pre-game lunch at the restaurant twice a month, Hanon said.

“We’re going to miss it -- miss him,” Hanon said.

The manager said the restaurant is on a thoroughfare frequented by out-of-town visitors, including folks who might fancy the Angels.

“There’s a very good market of travelers that come in and out from Los Angeles, New York, China and Brazil,” Hanon said. “We’ve built a real solid business with good food and service. Let’s hope that’s enough for people.”

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Scott Soshnick in New York at ssoshnick@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net