Street. Louis – Albert Pujols got dressed slowly on Saturday evening. He wore a black Roberto Clemente shirt, black jeans, and then a white shirt with a green hoodie.
Evan Herrera, a 22-year-old back-up catcher, went to Pujols, and asked him to sign a souvenir 700 bottle of champagne. He then asked him to sign the Pujols shirt he was holding in his hand. He thanked him profusely.
Pujols grabbed the backpack and moved through the St. Louis Cardinals. He said goodbye to employees, PR officials, and club attendees, and the last words he said to one in particular:
“Thank you for everything!”
He walked out the door for the last time.
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Pujols’ glorious career is over.
Pujols had a thrilling finish, hitting 0.323 in the second half with 18 of his 24 home runs, and ending his career with 703 home runs – his fourth most ever.
Only his last season ended prematurely.
The storybook season was supposed to end with Pujols and teammate Yadier Molina winning one final at the World Championships together. Instead, he ended up defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 2-0 and a quick loss in the Wild Card Playoffs, which swept into the best-of-three series.
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Pujols, 42, sat on the bench for five, 10, no more than 15 seconds after the final exit, entering the Cardinals club. Manager Oliver Marmol spoke to the team, telling them it was an honor to manage them, especially Pujols and Molina.
Marmol left the room, and the players started cuddling and cuddling each other, saying goodbye to them, and promising to keep in touch.
Nolan Arenado, third base officer on the All Star team, choked tears, saying he was still agonizing over the result, but it was a dream to play alongside Pujols and Molina in their final seasons. Veteran player Adam Wainwright has spoken of the possibility of a return for another season, frustrated that he did not play after the season, but he was honored that Molina was his catcher in 328 games, a league record.
“It’s sad to see two legends take off,” Wainwright said. “I don’t know if we will see a catcher like him again. I don’t know if we will see the 700 again. It was a pleasure being a teammate.”
It was a common refrain across the club, and as painful as it was when I saw them walk off the field for the last time without another World Championship title, they will cherish the moment from their last game.
Pujols hit a single in his final in the eighth inning – his second hit in the game. Molina hit a ninth-inning solo in his last game, with a crowd of 48,515 singing to him a standing ovation.
Then it’s over, as the two icons take off their Cardinals’ uniforms for the last time, trying to make it clear what it means to win two world championships together.
Five years from now, they’ll go to Cooperstown together as the number one celebrity ballot.
“It’s hard knowing I played my last game as a professional,” Pujols said. “I have been in uniform for 23 years in the major leagues. I am really proud. I have enjoyed every moment of my career. There is nothing to regret.”
Pujols, who received a standing ovation every time he stepped onto the plate as fans showed their pure love for him throughout the season, received a final ovation as he walked off the field for Ben Dellosio.
The fans, desperately wanting to believe there would be at least one more match, with Pujols leaving with two runners at the base and one outside, but then saw the two top players, Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado. These All-Star players, who have led the Cardinal all season, have gone one for 15 with six strokes in the series.
“It’s annoying and painful to lose like that, to lose the match like that,” Arenado said. “We wanted to win for these guys. Albert, Yadi, these guys were legends. It was such an honor to play with them. We wanted to do it for them, but we couldn’t get it done. It hurts to see them come out like that.”
While the Cardinals’ players, coaches and staff were emotional after the game, Pujols and Molina showed few reactions. Maybe they were drugged. Perhaps it was too early to understand the inevitability of the moment.
There is nothing to be sad about, Pujols said. “I did my best. There is nothing I should feel sorry for.
“I have finished this chapter of my life, and I will be enjoying the next chapter of my life as well. I am sure it will be fun.”
Pujols mostly remained demure talking to the media for eight minutes, while Molina was smiling and laughing a lot, more lively than usual. Talking about playing for 19 years with one organization, what fans meant to him, and even praying before his last game for a major hit, for a season extension.
“This is my home, and the fans have given me a lot of support over the years,” Molina said. “These are the best baseball fans here. I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss being amongst my teammates. This club. I’m going to miss you guys even. [reporters]. ”
Molina, 40, laughed, knowing he’d have to keep dealing with the media. He will be the manager of the Puerto Rico team in the World Baseball Classic. One day, he wants to become a manager of a major league as well.
For now, Pujols and Molina insist it will take some time for their retirement to sink in. It won’t take weeks, Pujols says, but months. Maybe longer. Molina says maybe until next year.
They’ve been in the major leagues for 41 years. They played 5,304 matches. She’s amassed 21 All-Star appearances, 11 Gold Glove Awards, seven Silver Players, and two World Championships.
You can’t simply end your career one day, and wrap your mind around it the next.
“Being around the guys, I’m going to miss,” Pujols says. “The memories of being around my teammates, the fans, spring training, the crack of the bat. Those are the things you’ll miss.”
“But I won’t miss you guys [reporters]. I guarantee 100% of that. No 110%. ”
Pujols and Molina will forever be known as the great Cardinals, and they will surely be inducted into their Hall of Fame. They are convinced that they are leaving the team in good hands, and that Wainwright, Goldschmidt and Arenado will fill any leadership vacuum. Who knows, if the Cardinals return to the post-season a year from now, they might simply return as fans, sit in those red benches, and soak up the atmosphere?
“We have some great talent here,” Molina says. “They will be in this situation for many years, I guarantee it. I hope they can win everything.”
In the meantime, they plan to stay for another day or so in St. Louis before parting. Molina is going to Puerto Rico. Pujols will return to California.
They may not be sitting behind the plate, hitting the house in the pews, or slathering on champagne again, but their relationship will never fade.
“We may not be teammates anymore, but he’ll be my little brother forever,” Pujols says. “The relationships I have, will never go away. Same with these memories.”
“How can I forget?”
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