Albert Pujols returns to St. Louis Cardinals

JUPITER, Florida – Adam Wainwright remembers exactly where he was that sad December morning when the best striker of his generation left St. Louis. Louis Cardinals.

“I was on the golf course, at hole 4 at Frederica Golf Club at home when I found out he had signed a contract with the Angels,” said Wainwright, who lives on the island of St. Louis. Simons, Georgia. “It was a life – a changing, changing moment, how big it was.”

It was in 2011, immediately after Albert Pujols won his second championship with the Cardinals. A day like Monday, when Pujols signed a $ 2.5 million contract to return to St. Louis. Louis for the farewell season, it seemed impossible. He was 31 when the Angels gave him $ 240 million to play for them for the next decade, plus a personal services contract for another decade after his retirement. It looked like a permanent decline in the perfect cut.

“Was it a sad day, a dark day?” John Mozeliak, president of the Cardinals baseball operations, said Monday morning. “Yes, of course. But in this industry, especially in baseball, you have to think ahead. You have to rejoice.”

And so both sides progressed and separated, and neither tried the title again. Without the Cardinals, Pujols made only twice in the postseason. Without the Puyols, the Cardinals scored seven, but reached just one World Series, a six-game defeat by Boston in 2013.

Pujols amassed milestones along the way: his 500th and 600th Houmran and 3,000th. hit. He is the only player who has reached those standards in his career with at least two championships.

However, leaving St. Louisa marked a clear dividing line, and Pujols ’worst season with the Cardinals was better than the best for the Angels. However, since he kept his family foundation in St. Louis, Pujols always felt connected.

“I felt like I might be wearing a different uniform, but I felt like I never left,” he said, adding that he often returned to charity events. “People still treat me the same way, whether I wore a cardinal’s uniform, whether I wore Angels or Dodgers, they never change. That’s what’s so special about Cardinals fans. They love you when you wear their uniform, but they still love you because you are part of this organization. ”

Now – as the oldest player in the major, at 42 – Pujols has officially returned, mainly due to his performance after the Angels released him last May. The Pujols joined the Dodgers and played in 85 games, scoring .254 with 12 home runs. Overall, he caught left-handed for .603 percent killing. With the striker selected in the National League now, the Pujols can make an impact.

“Oh, he’s got something left,” said Oliver Marmol, the Cardinals’ first-year manager. “It simply came to our notice then. Albert wants to play this year because he can help the team win. ”

The Cardinals, who lost to the Pujols Dodgers in an NL wild-card game last October, will open the season without two of their better young pitchers, right-handed Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes, who have shoulder injuries. But the team has signed two free-throw pitchers – left-handed Steven Matz and right-hander Drew Verhagen, who has revived his career in Japan – and still has catcher Yadier Molin, 39, leading the staff.

Molina and Pujols have definitely said this will be their last season, and Wainwright, 41, said he was leaning towards that as well. All three are members of the royal family in St. Louis, and Pujols brings a particularly royal look to an organization that prides itself on tradition.

“This organization has never closed its doors to me, and I have never closed the doors to the organization,” Pujols said. “It’s just a great opportunity.”

Molina and Wainwright were eager to reunite with Pujols, annoying him regularly on FaceTime about his plans. When Pujols arrived at the team’s spring training complex on Monday, he found Wainwright napping before the start and woke him up with a bear hug. During the game, the fans shouted as Pujols started from the right corner of the field into the Cardinals’ dugout. He laughed so as not to cry.

“I’m a pretty emotional guy,” Pujols said. “It doesn’t take that long.”

The Pujols played 76 games at first base last season, but understand they won’t knock down Paul Goldschmidt of the Cardinals, a four-time Golden Glove winner and one of the league’s most trusted players. Pujols said that he will do everything that Marmol wants, and he hopes that he will mentor young players in the way that his teammates like Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria worked as beginners in 2001.

Wainwright sees this already happening. After his release on Monday, he noticed some younger players getting dressed for the day. When those players saw Pujols and Molina walking towards the punching cage, Wainwright said, they changed back into their training clothes and set off with them.

Pujols with his leadership and example can offer intangible help. But he did not sign to be an ambassador. Pujols returns with a purpose.

“Whenever Albert is motivated,” Wainwright said, “it’s a very, very dangerous thing.”

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