Albert Pujols meant much more to Cardinal Nation than the stats show

Life as a baseball fan follows a common timeline. We dream of being like our favorite players as kids, envy the superstars throughout our 20’s and 30’s that are of similar age, and then reminisce on the past as men younger than us start entering and leaving the game. It’s only as kids, however, that we truly idolize our favorite superstars that we watched year in and year out from elementary to high school.

For us Millennials, the group of superstars we’ve watched since we could remember is slowly fading. Players like Ken Griffey Jr, Derek Jeter, and David Ortiz are no longer found in the video games we used to turn the “Force Trades” option on for in Franchise mode. Recent seasons have seen these guys walk to the dugout to a standing ovation, putting a cap on all the memories and joy they created. But now in 2017, the only ones left to remind us of the swings we would try to copy in the backyard are Ichiro, Miguel Cabrera, and Albert Pujols.

The latter of the three currently sits on 599 career home runs, looking to become the ninth player in history to reach the 600 home run milestone. At 37 years of age with three years left on his contract, there doesn’t figure to be many more after that. The power and on-base skills may not be what they once were during his MVP years in St.Louis, but the swing is still the same beautiful stroke that created many memorable moments for all baseball fans… especially those in St. Louis.

As a 20-year-old die-hard Cardinals fan, I speak on behalf of many my age from St. Louis when I say almost all of our MLB memories growing up begin and end with Albert Pujols. His three-run go-ahead moonshot off Brad Lidge with 2 outs in the 9th inning of Game Six of the 2005 NLCS showed us what magic truly was. His record-setting month of April in 2006 gave us a glimpse of what sheer dominance looked like with 14 home runs in the first 25 games. With all of the greatness, however, it was his constant community service and humility that reminded us of what truly mattered in life and how to be a good person, regardless of fame and success.

As we tune in to live look-ins of the Twins-Angels game, we look for another memory to tie into the childhood that has already evaded us. With each memorable home run counting for just as much as the others, the nostalgia of number 600 will remind us of how lucky we were to have an Albert Pujols to look up to. The player whose final stats and legacy we all sat around and speculated about as kids will show us just how realistic our lofty expectations were.

For all of us millennial Cardinal fans, we know that when Albert Pujols finally decides to hang ’em up, our childhood will officially be over. So we need to appreciate what we get to watch now, even though Pujols’ latest magical moment won’t come in a Cardinals uniform. It remains to be seen if he will ever return to Busch as a player, but whenever he does, the appreciation for the guy we all wanted to be like will be overwhelming. Players like Pujols come around once in a lifetime and we in St. Louis know how lucky we are to be seeing our childhood hero reach such an honorable mark.

Photo Credit © Gary A. Vasquez