I'm meeting Albert Pujols for the first time.

I've been warned by others he will be abrasive, standoffish and distrustful.

No interest in double dating, so what do I care?

I just want to know how old he really is, so like everyone else new to town, right from the start he's going to get the Page 2 treatment.

"What year were you born?" I begin.

"Same as you," Pujols replies. So that would explain his slow start, the Angels signing a 61-year-old first baseman.

"Except I'm in better shape than you and still playing," Pujols says. He's laughing and no one warned me he's also capable of doing that.

I've done my homework, and the prevailing opinion is he's not very lovable. Word is the St. Louis media coddled him, Manager Tony La Russa protected him, and so contrary to the public image of a religious and charitable superhero, he's not.

"You need to get to know me," Pujols says. "If I just went with what everybody's telling me about you ..." and there's no need for him to finish the sentence.

So we spend time getting to know each other. I tell him with exaggeration what a huge day it is now that he's hitting .240.

"Awesome," he deadpans, and it sure doesn't take him long to get it.

In return he tells me he takes his job seriously, very seriously, and while he's all for fun, I worry if I close my eyes and open them, Jeff Kent will be sitting here.

Pujols says his task is not to lose focus, and while the game might seem easy for him, he knows just how far he has come as the 402nd player selected in the 1999 draft.