Albert Pujols made his on-field return to St. Louis over the weekend, and Cardinals fans treated him like he was still one of theirs throughout.
The rotation of interleague play kept the Los Angeles Angels from playing in St. Louis during Albert Pujols’ time with the team. Until this past weekend that is, as Pujols started all three games and went 4-for-11 with a home run.
Pujols started his Hall of Fame career in St. Louis, rising from an overlooked 13th round pick who played at a community college in Kansas City to 2001 NL Rookie of the Year, a three-time NL MVP and a nine-time All-Star for the Cardinals.
Pujols has reached some lofty career milestones in an Angels’ uniform, including 3,000 hits and his 500th and 600th home runs. But he will always be a Cardinal for a lot of people and he still has a presence in St. Louis via his charitable foundation.
Each time he came to the plate from Friday-Sunday, Cardinals fans gave Pujols a standing ovation and the game briefly came to a stop. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, a long-time former teammate, of course, exchanged a couple of poignant moments with Pujols over the course of the three games.
After his solo home run on Saturday, the home fans cheered Pujols as if he was still a Cardinal. He went 2-for-5 on Sunday night, with ESPN’s showcase weekly game as the ideal stage. After an infield popout in the top of the ninth inning, in what will surely be his last at-bat at Busch Stadium, Pujols gave the fans one last curtain call.
Swapping jerseys is a typical post-game ritual for players in the NFL. It’s far less common in MLB, but after Sunday night’s game, Pujols and Molina appropriately did so to commemorate a final moment on the field together.
Pujols has two more years left on his contract after this one. But barring an Angels-Cardinals World Series matchup he will not play in St. Louis again, so the weekend was a proper send-off everyone involved will remember.