Albert Pujols’ Return Excites Cardinals Fans

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Media by Liza Cooper

As Albert Pujols stepped up to the plate for his first at-bat with the St. Louis Cardinals since 2011, fans cheered uproariously. The six-time Silver Slugger Award winner will retire after the 2022 season.

On April 2, 2001, a 21-year-old Albert Pujols stepped into the batter’s box for his first professional at-bat with the St. Louis Cardinals. At the end of the 2001 season, he was voted Rookie of the Year, had a .329 batting average and was quickly becoming a fan favorite. 

In the fall of 2011, after 10 years with the Cardinals, Pujols announced he was a free agent. The Los Angeles Angels outbid the Cardinals for Pujols’s contract and Cardinals fans were angered that Cardinals management did not sign him for another year. 

Almost 11 years later and in his last season, Pujols was once again a free agent. This time, the Cardinals snatched him up. His return means that two of the biggest names in Cardinals baseball history — Pujols and Yadier Molina — will retire together, and Adam Wainwright, although not confirmed, could most likely retire with them.

Many Cardinals fans, including Ben Bruggeman, junior, are thrilled about this full-circle ending. 

“I think that this is good for the team,” Bruggeman said. “It’s only right that he is retiring with Wainwright and Yadi in the place that wanted him the most.”

He is still one of the best hitters on the planet. ”

— Ben Bruggeman

Bruggeman also said Pujols will have a strong leadership presence in the dugout because his years of experience have made him one of the go-to guys for advice on many teams.

“He is still one of the best hitters on the planet,” Bruggeman said.

Pujols has six Silver Slugger awards, which are given to the best offensive player at a certain position in each league, along with a career batting average of .297.

Junior Principal Dr. Rick Regina said he knows Pujols will not perform at the same level he did when he first started out with the Cardinals, but his return will be exciting nevertheless.

This is a guy who played for the Cardinals when I was in my 20s, and now I’m in my late 40s, and he’s back. That’s kind of fun. It makes me feel like a kid again. ”

— Rick Regina

“Everytime he comes to the plate, people stop what they are doing and watch,” he said.

Pujols’ homecoming also inspires nostalgia for Dr. Regina. 

“This is a guy who played for the Cardinals when I was in my 20s, and now I’m in my late 40s, and he’s back,” he said. “That’s kind of fun. It makes me feel like a kid again.”

Pujols’ return also will bring generations of baseball fans together, Regina added.

“I think it will be nothing but positive vibes,” he said. “It’s a feel-good story. People are excited: whether it’s high school students that never really got to see Pujols play in his prime because they were too young, or their parents who did get to watch him in his prime and now they get to share that moment with their kids.”

This is the case for Sydney Barkley, sophomore. Her parents loved Pujols when he played for the Cardinals, but she is not familiar with him as a player.

“I’m kinda excited,” Barkley said. “I did not really know him much but my parents really like him.”

She said her family will most likely go to more games this year to experience what Pujols is like on the playing field.

“Molina and Wainwright are playing with Pujols too, and they are most likely retiring together, so we’ll hopefully see a bunch of games this year,” she said.