The more Albert Pujols talked about St. Louis, the more he smiled.
Next Tuesday at Anaheim, Pujols will play against the Cardinals for the first time -- in the regular season, in spring training, in anything other than an intrasquad game. When I asked what it will feel like to stand at home plate and see his close friend Yadier Molina crouching behind it, Pujols thought back on 11 years of faces, names and championships.
He listed them one by one -- Nate . . . Josh . . . Rip Rowan . . . C.J. Cherre . . . Chad Blair -- from the young clubhouse attendants who cleaned his shoes, to the traveling secretary, to the video coordinator, to senior medical adviser Barry Weinberg, whom Pujols called "the guy who kept me on the field, healthy, for 11 years." He thanked his old manager, Tony La Russa, "who trusted me from Day 1 and always made me feel I belonged there."
He reminisced about his teammates, saying he keeps in touch with Molina, Adam Wainwright, Jon Jay, Allen...