A decade ago, Albert Pujols debuted for Cardinals

BY foxsports • April 2, 2011

Ten years ago, Albert Pujols debuted for the St. Louis Cardinals playing left field and batting sixth.

The three-time NL MVP remembers the day well - April 2, 2001 at Colorado. Before Saturday's game against the San Diego Padres, Pujols recalled that he thought it would be a short stay and he'd be headed for the minor leagues once Bobby Bonilla recovered from a hamstring injury.

''They moved me up to fifth and fourth right behind Big Mac (Mark McGwire), and I've been stuck in the third hole for a while,'' Pujols said. ''I can't believe it's been 10 years.

''Great memories, it's been awesome. A great ride and I've enjoyed every moment.''

A decade earlier, Pujols believed his first taste of the major leagues would be brief because Bonilla was on the mend.

''The reality was I thought two days after that I was going down to the minor leagues,'' Pujols said. ''I was the guy pretty much who had the option to go back to the minor leagues.

''I didn't think about that, what I thought about was just do everything I can to be up here and, obviously, I never looked back.''

Manager Tony La Russa said Pujols would have made the team regardless of Bonilla's injury, adding that the often-told story simply made for good copy.

''That story has been retold a bunch of different times and it was all because of Bonilla. That wasn't true,'' La Russa said. ''That's been worked over a little bit.''

Heading into Game 2 of what could be his final season with the Cardinals, Pujols said everything has gone by fast. Not so fast that he didn't recall flying out to the warning track against Mike Hampton in his first at-bat and singling up the middle for his first career hit - or that it had snowed the previous day to put the game at risk.

It was the start of a memorable decade.

Pujols hit the first of his 408 career home runs with three hits and three RBIs four days later. He became the franchise's first rookie to homer in the home opener since Wally Moon in 1954, tied the major league rookie record with eight homers in April, became the Cardinals' first rookie All-Star since 1955 and started at all four corner positions

''I can't believe it's been 10 years,'' Pujols said. ''Great memories. It's been awesome, a great ride and I've enjoyed every moment.''

Pujols is the only player in major league history to hit 30 home runs in each of his first 10 seasons, and he and Hall of Famer Al Simmons are the only players with 100 RBIs in their first 10 seasons.

He completed the last decade as the National League triple crown winner with a .334 average, 366 homers and 1,112 RBIs - even though he played in only nine seasons.

''The one thing we've all tried to do is make it a point never to take him for granted,'' La Russa said. ''He's very special, historically special.''

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