Can Albert Pujols become the greatest Latino slugger ever?

No one should be surprised that Albert Pujols reached the milestone of joining baseball’s exclusive 500 Home Run club Tuesday. The real question facing the…

Los Angeles Angels Albert Pujols (5) steps out of the visitors dugout to acknowledge the applause from the crowd after hitting his career 500th home run against Washington Nationals Taylor Jordan in the fifth inning of a baseball game in Washington, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

No one should be surprised that Albert Pujols reached the milestone of joining baseball’s exclusive 500 Home Run club Tuesday.

The real question facing the Los Angeles Angels’ slugger is whether he can become the greatest Latino home run hitter in baseball history.

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To do so, he would have to eventually surpass Sammy Sosa’s 609 dingers and catch Alex Rodriguez whose 654 homers are the benchmark for Hispanic ballplayers.

It’s not out of the question.

At 34 and now healthy, Pujols has eight seasons left on the 10-year $254 million deal he signed with the Angels in 2012, meaning he could play at least until 2022.

Although his production has dropped off since leaving the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols appears to have recaptured his old form when he wore the “Best Hitter Alive” crown for five definitive years during the 2000s and was named the most feared hitter in baseball in a poll of all 30 MLB managers.

Pujols has averaged just a little more than 37 home runs in his 13 years in the majors. If he were to average just 25 home runs a season for the upcoming eight seasons, he would be at 700 home runs – a club whose only members are Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.

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“He’s got a lot of baseball left,” says Angels Manager Mike Scioscia. “I don’t know if there are many players who work as hard as Albert does in the off-season to get where they need to be. I look for him, when it’s all said and done, to be one of those handful of players you’re in awe of.”

Pujols is the first player to collect his 499th and 500th homers in the same game. He hit 455 of those homers with the Cardinals.

To reach 500 Tuesday, Pujols slugged two homers — his seventh and eighth this year, giving him the major league lead a season after he hit a career-low 17 home runs. His five RBIs in leading the Angels over the Washington Nationals gave him 18 in his past 13 games.

Albert Pujols part of an exclusive club

He joins a 500 Home Run Club with only 26 members that Pujols acknowledged after the game Tuesday night.

“To have more than 19,000 players who wore a big league uniform and to have only 26 players to do this, it’s pretty special,” Pujols said. “I was pretty emotional running the bases.

“It tastes better with a win. I knew this year it was going to happen, whether it was tonight, tomorrow, two months from now. So my goal was just to prepare myself every day to try to help this organization win.”

Pujols also has a lifetime .320 batting average, which is surpassed by only three members of the 500-homer club: Ted Williams at .344, Babe Ruth at .342 and Jimmie Foxx at .325.

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Pujols, who is 34 years and 96 days old, becomes the third youngest player to hit 500 home runs, with only Alex Rodriguez and Foxx having reached that mark sooner. Rodriguez was 32 years, 8 days when he hit his 500th in 2007. Foxx was 32 years, 338 days when he reached that number in 1940.

“Now,” said Pujols, obviously looking to records ahead, “we’ve got to start on the next milestone, I guess.”