Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols acknowledged that playing his old team for the first time would carry more emotional gravity were it happening at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. He has too many memories, friends and acquaintances for it not to. But he also admitted that his experience against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night was a bit surreal when he stepped into the batter's box and Yadier Molina squatted down behind him.
"It was a little weird. But I was fine, guys. I swear. I'm being honest,'' Pujols said. ''I mean, it would have been a little different if it was in St. Louis. I mean, you can't forget the special times you had with those guys during those 11 years there." [...]
The first time Pujols came up, he tapped Molina's shin guard with his bat and Molina tapped Pujols on the back of the helmet with his glove -- a subtle but meaningful display of affection and respect between two All-Stars who were teammates for nine seasons and won two World Series rings together. Pujols then struck out, and Molina threw out J.B. Shuck at second for an inning-ending double play.
Albert's not in Missouri anymore, after winning three MVPs and spending 11 seasons with the Cardinals, and it's something he seems used to already. But he's still linked to the Cardinals organization inexorably. During batting practice, the Angels wore special patches that honored Stan Musial, the Cardinals legend who died in January.
''Stan was my buddy,'' Pujols said. ''I wish I would have had more opportunities to talk to him. When he walked into the clubhouse, it was like a light that was so bright. It was amazing. Everybody would stop what they were doing."
Who knows when the Angels will visit Busch Stadium, with these wacky interleague schedule parameters? Albert might never have to face his old city within town limits.
There's always the World Series, of course, down the road.
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