It’s the last hurrah for Albert Pujols…
The 42-year-old Dominican professional baseball first baseman and future Baseballl Hall of Famer has signed a one-year deal, reportedly worth $2.5 million, with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pujols is hoping to summon the same magic he had during his previous run with the Cardinals from 2001-11, when he produced two championships, three MVP awards and a 10-year streak of hitting at least .300 and smashing 30 or more home runs.
“For me, I think I’m here for a reason,” said Pujols, who earlier in the day emerged from beyond the right-field fence at Roger Dean Stadium and walked down the foul line to join his Cardinals teammates in the dugout in their 2-1 loss to the Astros. “They believe I can still play this game and they believe I can help this organization win a championship. And myself, I believe in that, too.”
Pujols — considered one of the greatest players in the rich history of the Cardinals, right alongside of Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith — rejoins the franchise at a time when catcher Yadier Molina is entering his 19th and final season, and pitcher Adam Wainwright could be about to exit as well.
Wainwright, who allowed two runs on four hits in five innings on Monday, believes Pujols will be on a mission to show he has plenty left in the tank as a hitter.
“He seems like he’s in good shape, and he’s motivated,” said Wainwright, who noted that Pujols woke him up from his pregame nap on Monday with a “bear hug.”
“Any time Albert is motivated, it’s a very, very dangerous thing,” Wainwright said. “He’s motivated to show people that he’s not too old or over the hill. I don’t think he wants this to be nostalgic; he wants to go out and prove something. That chip is a good one to put on your shoulder. It’s cool to be loved, that’s a nice thing, and nobody is more beloved than he is. But he wants to prove himself.”
Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. saw an immediate response from the addition of Pujols — he spotted a fan wearing a No. 5 jersey when he pulled into the team’s headquarters Monday morning. DeWitt Jr. called the signing “the highlight of the spring.”Top of Form
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Pujols enters the season 21 home runs shy of 700 — with much of that damage coming from his historic run with the Cardinals for 11 seasons. He hit .328 and clubbed 445 home runs with the Redbirds, was named an MLB All-Star nine times and won the Gold Glove Award twice.
Pujols, who left St. Louis in 2011 to sign a 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels, had emotional returns to St. Louis in recent years while playing for Anaheim and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He said the numerous standing ovations he received from Cardinals fans — both before and after homering off current Cardinal Dakota Hudson in 2019 and J.A. Happ last season — allowed him to dream again about possibly returning to St. Louis to cap his career.
“There was always hope, so you never close the door,” Pujols said. “The organization never closed the door on me, and I never closed the door, either. It’s a great opportunity. Everything always happens on God’s time, and it’s the perfect time right now. I’m back here and I’m really excited.”