ST. LOUIS (AP) -- 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.
At the time, it was believed that Pujols got his first taste of the major leagues only because Bonilla was hurt. Manager Tony La Russa said Pujols would have made the team regardless, adding that the often-told story simply made for good copy.
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.
It was the start of a memorable decade. Pujols is the only player in major league history to hit 30 home runs in each of the 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.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)