July 2: Cardinals (49-43) @ Angels (39-43)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

There was no dodging the obvious storyline upon arriving at Angel Stadium today. This series was long-ago pegged as the Cardinals vs. Albert. Actually, it’s the skidding Cardinals against the streaking Angels — and the Cardinals are much more concerned about turning around their recent results than they are getting to reacquaint themselves with an old friend and teammates.

Even still, there were the necessary questions to ask Pujols, the natural curiosity about how it must feel to face his former team for the first time. Here is a sampling of the questions posed to Pujols today and the answers he provided:

(on facing the Cardinals) “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, obviously, 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 as opponents) “I was telling Yadier [Molina] 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 still have a lot of good friends there from the clubhouse guy Rip [Rowan], [traveling secretary] CJ [Cherre], [strength and conditioning coach] Pete [Prinzi] … those are people that make our career easy; they don’t get enough credit. 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 leaving 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. [Angels owner] Arte Moreno made a big commitment to bring me here to hopefully have 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 honoring Stan Musial) “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. Not just for Stan, but for Lou Brock, Mike Shannon … 75 years, 60-plus in Spring Training. It’s just amazing, the light that those guys brought into the clubhouse. It was sad to lose Stan, but I think he’s in a better place, where he is.”

“Stan Musial was a great player, a legacy he left behind, but he was a better person, and I think he always needs to be remembered. Not just in St. Louis, but all over the country.”

(on reception by Cardinals fans) “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. … I believe they blessed me to be who I am today, and that’s my job, to bring it here and to have hopefully the success I had in St. Louis and to continue to do things off the field, like I did yesterday, and bring my foundation over here. …

(on visiting with some old teammates on Monday) “It was great. Those people, we’ve had great success together. [Molina] is like my little brother. We’re probably thousands of miles away from each other, but we’re still friends, we’re still brothers. We talk a lot, we get together in the offseason whenever we can. I know a lot of people want to give me credit for the success that he had in the big leagues, and I don’t think I should get any credit for that. Yadi’s been the same player, he just matured more. He’s always been that great hitter who doesn’t strike out too much, and I told him, ‘You’re going to have a great career from Day 1′ because I know he puts the ball in play a lot, and his work ethic. He doesn’t let the 0-for-4 bother him when he wears that catcher’s mitt and puts that gear on. It’s pretty impressive to see that so young and maturing in his career.”

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If you want to see a few photos from the afternoon — Pujols meeting with the media and old teammates — head on over to my Instagram account.

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Here are a few story links that you also might be interested in:

  • Pujols and the Angels honor Musial in several ways before and during Tuesday’s game. Read more about the Angels’ gestures here.
  • Pujols calls reunion with old teammates “weird.” Story here.
  • Despite losing a superstar, the Cardinals have moved forward just fine.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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