ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols is again in St. Louis, almost eight years after celebrating a World Collection crown within the metropolis that made him well-known.
The Corridor of Fame-bound slugger has achieved rather a lot 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 instances. 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.
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.
The ovation might need lasted longer if Michael Wacha hadn’t then thrown his first pitch to Pujols. The at-bat ended with Pujols flying out to heart discipline.
Not solely was it his first sport again on the scene of his outdated glories as a participant — Pujols mentioned earlier than the sport that he hadn’t been again to the park in any respect since he and the Cardinals beat the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 Collection title.
“I drove by it as soon as,” Pujols mentioned. “As a result of I had an occasion [nearby].
Gamers change groups and revisit outdated stomping grounds each season, however this one is particular, each due to Pujols’ standing as one of many best Cardinals ever and due to the particular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 the 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 mentioned. “I am fairly certain once I take the sphere … it is going to be [special]. I am probably not an emotional man. However it’s in all probability going to get to me. It is attending to me now.”
Albert Pujols meets with reporters Friday previous to his first sport in St. Louis as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. Pujols gained two World Collection with the Cardinals earlier than signing with the Angels after the 2011 season. AP Photograph/L.G. Patterson
Thunderstorms handed via St. Louis on Friday, canceling batting apply, however because the Busch Stadium grounds crew rolled up the tarp and started making ready the rain-soaked discipline, 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 outdated 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. In truth, Pujols mentioned that in all the years since he modified groups, he has by no means encountered anybody who has expressed resentment over his choice.
“The fact is right here,” Pujols mentioned of the long-awaiting return. “It is simply superb. Began my profession right here, 11 years, the success that I had right here, 9 playoffs, two World Collection, the most effective followers in baseball. I exploit the [saying] that I got here right here as little boy and I left as a very robust and grown man.”
The ovation throughout his first at-bat was anticipated, as he is the all-time 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 all time 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 Collection crowns, Pujols says it nonetheless comes again to the friendships he has constructed over time. That is very true of the 2 remaining Cardinals gamers from his St. Louis days, pitcher Adam Wainwright and Molina, whom Pujols has many instances known as his little brother.
“I feel the most effective belongings you construct on this sport is the relationships,” Pujols mentioned. “No person can take that away from you. And also you play this sport 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 essential to me than what I’ve achieved.”