ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols is again in St. Louis, practically eight years after celebrating a World Sequence crown within the metropolis that made him well-known.
The Corridor of Fame-bound slugger has achieved lots throughout his time with the Los Angeles Angels, with whom he signed after 11 stellar seasons with the Cardinals. He has had three 30-homer seasons. He has pushed in 100 or extra runs 4 occasions. He has reached historic profession milestones — three,000 hits, 500 and 600 homers, 2,000 RBIs. However he had by no means been again to Busch Stadium.
That’s, till Friday, when Pujols’ Angels started their first interleague sequence in St. Louis since he left. It was a lovefest from the second he stepped onto the sphere till to the second he left the sport.
“Simply fairly superb,” Pujols stated. “That’ll present you why they’re the very best followers in baseball. I am simply glad to have the ability to play right here for 11 years, have the nice reminiscences.”
In his first at-bat, the ovation lasted about 1 minute and 20 seconds, and Pujols tipped his helmet to the gang, pointed to the Cardinals’ dugout and hugged catcher Yadier Molina, considered one of his finest associates and considered one of two remaining teammates from his St. Louis days.
“I used to be fairly shut from dropping a pair tears there, I feel, particularly after I hugged Yadi,” Pujols stated. “We had that little second to ourselves proper there.”
The ovation might need lasted even longer if Michael Wacha hadn’t then thrown his first pitch to Pujols. The at-bat ended with Pujols flying out to middle subject, a blast that introduced the gang to its ft, solely to finish in a mass sigh when the ball settled into the glove of Harrison Bader.
Pujols obtained a standing ovation as he strode to the plate in all three of his plate appearances. Throughout his second journey, the gang erupted in a chant of “Albert! Albert!” On his third at-bat, the 39-year-old obtained a standing ovation when he got here to the plate and after he legged out an infield single.
With Pujols on second base within the seventh representing the tying run, Angels supervisor Brad Ausmus eliminated him for a pinch runner. The transfer was made for strategic causes however it gave the Busch Stadium trustworthy, a lot of whom wore replicas of Pujols’ previous No. 5 Cardinals jersey, one last likelihood to bathe him with adoration.
Albert Pujols hits a single in his last at-bat in his return to Busch Stadium, solely to be pulled from the sport to a standing ovation by his former dwelling crowd.
“Under no circumstances [surprised],” Ausmus stated. “I anticipated it. Having performed right here many occasions, I’ve seen how Cardinal followers react to even visiting gamers. I absolutely anticipated that to occur.”
The one dangerous a part of it for Pujols was the ultimate outcome: St. Louis received 5-1, earlier than an introduced crowd of 48,423 — the second-largest crowd within the historical past of Busch Stadium.
Not solely was it his first recreation again on the scene of his previous glories as a participant — Pujols stated earlier than the sport that he hadn’t been again to the park in any respect since he and the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 to clinch the 2011 World Sequence title.
“I drove by it as soon as,” Pujols stated. “As a result of I had an occasion [nearby].”
Gamers change groups and revisit previous stomping grounds each season, however this one is particular, each due to Pujols’ standing as one of many best Cardinals ever and due to the particular connection to town he has maintained to this present day. Pujols’ basis nonetheless operates in St. Louis and he nonetheless owns a home within the metropolis’s suburbs.
“It hasn’t hit me but,” Pujols stated earlier than the sport. “I am fairly certain after I take the sphere … it is going to be [special]. I am not likely an emotional man. However it’s most likely going to get to me. It is attending to me now.”
Thunderstorms handed by St. Louis on Friday, canceling batting follow, however because the Busch Stadium grounds crew rolled up the tarp and started getting ready the rain-soaked subject, early-arriving followers crowded alongside the rail subsequent to the Angels’ facet of the sphere, hoping to catch a glimpse of Pujols.
In the meantime, contained in the ballpark, Pujols exchanged hugs and handshakes with quite a few acquainted faces from the previous days. If anybody was nonetheless uncooked about the truth that Pujols left the membership for a 10-year, $240 million contract, you’d by no means guess it by the scene contained in the ballpark. Actually, Pujols stated that in all the years since he modified groups, he has by no means encountered anybody who has expressed resentment over his resolution.
“The truth is right here,” Pujols stated of the long-awaited return. “It is simply superb. Began my profession right here, 11 years, the success that I had right here, 9 playoffs, two World Sequence, the very best followers in baseball. I take advantage of the [saying] that I got here right here as little boy and I left as a very sturdy and grown man.”
The ovation throughout his first at-bat was anticipated, as he is the chief in batting common, homers and extra-base hits on the present Busch Stadium, the third venue in St. Louis to bear that title. Although it has been eight years since he toiled for the Redbirds, Pujols ranks second within the franchise’s historical past in homers (445), RBIs (1,329) and extra-base hits (915).
But regardless of the Cooperstown-worthy numbers, the 9 journeys to the postseason and the 2 World Sequence crowns, Pujols says it nonetheless comes again to the friendships he has constructed through the years. That is notably true of the 2 remaining Cardinals gamers from his St. Louis days, pitcher Adam Wainwright and Molina, whom Pujols has many occasions known as his little brother.
“I feel the very best belongings you construct on this recreation is the relationships,” Pujols stated. “No person can take that away from you. And also you play this recreation for 20 years or no matter — hopefully you reside longer than what you play.
“That is why you construct these nice relationships. That’s the reason it is extra vital to me than what I’ve achieved.”
If anybody thought Pujols might need broken these relationships along with his long-past resolution to signal with the Angels, they had been proved incorrect Friday evening.
“That is an unimaginable second for me tonight, and it is one thing I am gonna put it proper up there with the accomplishment of successful the World Sequence twice right here,” Pujols stated. “As a result of this was a fairly particular evening, not only for me. For my spouse, my 5 lovely youngsters to have a part of that, and all my associates, too. It’s extremely particular.”