Pujols, on seeing his ex-teammates: ‘It’s weird.”
In case you hadn’t heard, the Cardinals are here. You know, that team Albert Pujols played a really long time for (11 years) and did a lot of things for (two World Series, three MVPs) and then left departed somewhat bitterly (eventually taking a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Angels).
Oh, so you knew already.
Well, it’s today. In a few hours. And a lot of media showed up to Angel Stadium to ask Pujols about it. Below are the highlights (for more info, here’s my story on the unavoidable storyline and Jen Langosch’s, on how the Cardinals have moved on so well) …
On his initial thoughts of facing the Cardinals: “Really exciting. I was able to hang around with my little brother, Yadier [Molina], yesterday and a couple of the guys. You can’t forget the success that you’ve had with those guys over the last 11 years there in St. Louis. To be able to win it in 2011 and have an opportunity to talk to them in the offseason, that’s something pretty special. That’s something that nobody can take away, how those fans in St. Louis treated me and everybody in the community, through my foundation. To have the success that I had there, that’s something nobody can take away from me.”
On seeing the Cardinals on the other side: “I was telling Yadier yesterday, it’s weird. These are three days that I won’t be able to root for them, because any time that I have an opportunity and I watch, I root for them. Some of them are my good friends. … I stay in touch with a lot of those guys. I faced those guys for 11 years in intrasquad in Spring Training, and now it’s just going to be a little bit more competition. They’re going to do their preparation to try to beat us today, and I’m going to do my preparation to try to beat them. I think it’s going to be a fun three-game series here.”
On what he regrets from his time in St. Louis: “To tell you the truth, I don’t really want to open those doors. I think we need to talk about our organization. I’m an Angel now, we’re playing really good over the last week or so, and I think my main focus is that, to think about what I can try to do today to help this ballclub win and not to open those doors of what happened two years ago. Because that’s over. There’s nothing I can do to flip the page and go back. I just need to move forward. They moved forward and I moved forward. I’m excited. Arte Moreno made a big commitment to bring me here to hopefully the success that I had there, to bring it to the city of Anaheim. And that’s my goal over the next nine years, including this year.”
On whether it gives him a competitive edge to see his old teammates: “They’re having a great season, we’re playing great, and it’s going to be a great week. But I’m just going to go out there, have fun, do what I have to do and play this game. I’m blessed to be able to play this game and I think God every day for the opportunity he gave me. But just because I have friends on the other side, that doesn’t add an extra chip on my shoulder to try to go out ther enad play the game, because you shouldn’t have that. You shouldn’t ever have that chip on your shoulder. You should play this game the right way because you love it, because you are blessed to have this opportunity to play, and that’s how I look at it every day.”
On the Angels honoring Stan Musial (by having his grandson throw the first pitch, wearing a patch on their BP jerseys and playing a video tribute): “I’m really excited. Stan was my buddy. I wish I would’ve had more of an opportunity to talk to him. .. .When he walked into that clubhouse, it was like the light was so bright. Everybody would stop what they’re doing.”
On the reaction from St. Louis natives when he visited the city in the offseason: “I think I ran into like 30,000 fans this offseason, and they were praising me, blessing me, and I was telling them the same thing. I was thankful for the support during my career there. My home is still there during the offseason, my foundation is still there, and I’ll be there until they kick me out.”
On whether he expected a bad reception in St. Louis: “Never in my mind that came through, because I knew what kind of fans St. Louis has. They’re true fans, they’re legit, and they respect what I did. Never in my mind. I walk in there in the offseason, I go all over. I’m not going to hide anywhere. I work out there. Nothing has changed. I know they were probably disappointed, but they have to learn to move on and they moved on without me and I’m here, to have hopefully the next 8 ½ years and bring as many championships as I can to this city.”
On the Cardinals doing well and the Angels struggling: “Trust me, it could be the opposite. They could be where we are, if you look records-wise and numbers-wise. This is more than just a game, you know. At the end of the day, it’s about my relationship with God and knowing that I’m in a good place. I told you guys, when I made my decision two years ago, I don’t have to look to the right or the left. I just need to look forward and know that I have peace with where God has put me. … I’m blessed to be able to play this game, and I was blessed to be in St. Louis for 15 years, now I’m here, and my goal is to try to continue to have the success that I’ve had there. There’s nothing I can do.”
On stepping into the box with Molina squatting behind him: “I can’t read the future, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. I’m human. I can tell you one thing, I’m going to do my routine. I’m probably going to hit the umpire and I’m going to hit him on the shin [with the tip of his bat]. Hopefully he tells me not to do it and maybe we can start a fight [jokingly, of course, a la Brandon Phillips].”