Column: Appreciating Albert Pujols from Missouri to California

Sports

ST. LOUIS- This hits close to home.

Albert Pujols’ career with the Angels was just one World Series win away from magnificent. The future Hall of Famer has left a lasting impression in the Anaheim community. 

When Pujols became an Angel, the team hadn’t had a hitter with that caliber in quite some time. Seeing Albert Pujols up to bat, fresh off a World Series win with the Cardinals, brought a new energy Angels fans desperately needed.

As a young Angels fan, I didn’t know how much Pujols meant to St. Louis until I moved to Missouri. I quickly learned that my Angels jersey with a #5 and the name Pujols on the back would be scoffed at while walking around campus at the University of Missouri.

When I went back to Southern California to see my family, we always fit in an Angels game and sometimes multiple games. 

I wanted to be there when Pujols hit HR 600 – but just missed it. I watched Pujols hit HR 599 at The Big A off Bartolo Colon on May 31, 2017. I recorded every at-bat after that on my phone hoping it would be 600, but it didn’t happen until June 3, 2017.

Just like every Cardinals fan knows where they were when the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, every Angels fan knows where they were when Pujols hit his 600th home run, that just so happened to be a Grand Slam, in pure Pujols style.

His style wasn’t just on the field, and I know I don’t have to tell Cardinals fans that. My family and I ran into him at the beach one summer day, he was squeezing in family time before he had to play a game at The Big A in just hours. My little brother accidentally ran into him on his boogie board and Pujols helped him back up, a dream-come-true for a 9-year-old fan. My family also ran into him at the mall, always with his family. We were rows away from him at church too, his faith always shined no matter which uniform he wore.

Angels fans so desperately wanted to see a World Series title, I mean, how could they not? Pujols, Trout and then add in Ohtani? It’s weird to think it will never happen with Pujols now.

The first time I understood how much Cardinals fans adored Pujols was when the Angels played at Busch Stadium in June 2019. This, among many other reasons, is why even as an Angels fan, I believe Cardinals fans are the best fans in baseball.

It’ll be hard to imagine the Angels without Pujols, but I guess now I can mourn like Cardinals fans have been doing since 2011. For pure sentimental value, I’d love to see Pujols play his final MLB game in a Cardinals jersey. 

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