ST. LOUIS — How old do you have to be to use the phrase, "For those of us a certain age"? I'm sure it's older than 26, right? Ah, the heck with it, I'm going for it.
For those of us baseball fans a certain age from St. Louis, it's hard to get too far along in describing our childhoods without mentioning Albert Pujols.
If you were a kid in St. Louis at any point from 2001-2011 (late millennials and some early gen Z'ers) and were even mildly interested in baseball, Pujols was a borderline holy figure.
You knew about his consistency to hit at least 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs every year. You imitated the batting stance with the intimidating glare and tongue sometimes peeking out. You had his posters on your wall. You played the EA Sports MVP Baseball video game on PlayStation 2 with his face on the cover.
And I bet this also happened other places around the St. Louis area, but for baseball teams I was on as a kid, picking the No. 5 as your jersey number came with a responsibility. You had Albert's number. The other team was going to assume you were the best opposing player. You better be able to live up to that.
I never took No. 5.
Of course everyone had their own sentimental favorites growing up. I for instance, was a Scott Rolen kid.
But even though were were just kids, the fans of my generation knew Pujols was the most incredible athlete we were ever going to see. And he was our ultimate hero.
That's why what's happening in 2022 is even more special to the now-adults of my generation. Our childhood hero is back in St. Louis hitting home runs?! It's hard not to make you feel like a kid again.
As a kid watching Cardinals games, there was always sort of a sense of ease. We had Albert Pujols. Everything was going to be alright.
The Albert Pujols taking hacks at Busch Stadium of 2022 is not nearly the same one of our childhood, but that feeling is at least sort of still there.
Albert is a Cardinal. Everything is as it should be.
The day Pujols signed with the Angels, the news swept through my high school like wildfire. We thought that was it. The story was over. The story had given us a lot of great memories, but we'd always have a sour taste over how it ended.
But Pujols' new chapter as a Cardinal some 15 years after he helped my generation of St. Louisans fall in love with baseball is like a big hug from an old friend.
You don't get many storybook endings in real life. The Cardinals have set the stage for one this year.
Like a lot of folks out there I realize there are obviously more impactful moves the Cardinals could have made this offseason to better set them up for playoff success. That's pretty obvious. Adding an old Albert Pujols is not going to be the piece that makes you a guaranteed championship level contender.
But I'd be lying if 12-year-old me wouldn't be absolutely over the moon knowing Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright were still Cardinals in 2022.
My generation grew up on hot St. Louis summer days watching Albert Pujols do something amazing on a nightly basis.
Those moments will come fewer and further between in 2022, but the fact that my now-grown-up generation gets to experience moments like that all over again, is something that feels truly special.
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