I attended a conference in Phoenix this week, we flew in on Sunday and met my cousin and his wife at Tempe Diablo for the split-squad Angels-Indians game. It was a perfect day, it felt so good to be at a game, in the sun, just watching the guys warm up.
The young ones were on the field first, and gradually the regulars trickled out. Howie, Aybar, Vernon, Torii, Trumbo - then, I swear the place went silent - here came Albert Pujols. In an Angels uniform.
I will always remember that moment, when it became 100% real to me that Albert Pujols is an Angel. Silent burst into a standing ovation, and he gave a little wave to the fans.
We sat behind the Angels dugout, lots of fans were there hoping for autographs but that time had passed. Except one of the players motioned to a middle-aged man to toss him his baseball and pen. He disappeared into the dugout for a minute, then tossed two balls back to the man and a teenage boy with him. As they walked up the steps I asked whose autograph they got? The man said proudly, "My son, Rodriguez. Number 45". But the beaming teen held up the ball he had just received, clearly signed 'Albert Pujols'. F-Rod had the nerve to ask Albert to sign baseballs for his dad & brother!
I took over 600 pictures, I think 300 of them were of Pujols. I kept checking back over at first base, almost afraid he wouldn't be there. Halfway through the game, as I took another series of Albert shots, Shelley said "I think you are in love with him". I think she may be right!
There aren't many ushers at Tempe Diablo, and they aren't fussy about where you sit, or where and when you stand. In Albert's last at-bat, I was hoping to catch his first home run as an Angel. Everything was set, here came the pitch - and suddenly a giant pink blob filled my frame. Mom ran down to tell her son she was leaving. It was only a single, but if it had been a homer I might have assaulted her.
We were treated to an Angels 20-hit, 17-2 win. The guys seemed to be having fun, Trumbo looked good, Richards pitched well, and if they can play like that during the regular season, we're going to have a great year!