"I told him that in Spring Training," Hunter recalled. "He's like, 'Really?' But you don't really know until you go through it."
Oh, Pujols has gone through it, all right.
He ended Saturday's game against the Orioles with a 61-at-bat homerless streak, the longest of his career to start a season. But for at least four straight nights, he has hit balls that have looked like homers off the bat. There was one to deep center field on Wednesday, the line drive that was six inches from going over the left-field fence on Thursday, the bomb he hit to deep left-center field but was caught just below the "387" sign on Friday, and a foul ball down the left-field line on Saturday.
After Friday's latest close call, Pujols viciously clapped his hands in frustration. He simply couldn't believe it.
Hunter estimates that the marine layer during night games at Angel Stadium can take away 15 feet from a ball.
"You really have to hit it flush and hard," Hunter said. "If you have [Mark] Trumbo pop, it doesn't matter. But it's weird because that marine layer is real."
Hunter averaged one home run every 21.1 at-bats with the Twins from 2001-07, but 24.2 in his first four years with the Angels -- and he'll tell you age had little to do with it.
But as the temperature rises and the humidity lessens, the marine layer becomes less intimidating. To right field, where the stands are higher, the ball carries normally. And during the day, the ball can really carry.
"Day games, I think you're going to see everybody swinging for the fences," Hunter said. "That's the time."
And it's not like Pujols is used to hitting in a launching pad. Angel Stadium ranked 25th in the Majors in homers according to ESPN's Park Factors, but Busch Stadium -- his old home ballpark in St. Louis -- ranked 27th.
To Pujols' benefit, he's more of a line-drive hitter than a home run hitter.
"He's definitely that guy who can go gap to gap and occasionally hit a homer -- he just happens to get 40 of them a year," Hunter said, laughing. "But when you're a line-drive hitter like that, doubles guy, those become homers."