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El Hombre saves the dayPosted Wednesday, July 15, 2009, at 3:45 PM
He may not have been able to help break the American League's chokehold on the National League in the 2009 MLB All-Star game at Busch Stadium, but hometown hero Albert Pujols still came up with one of the biggest plays of the night at the annual Midsummer Classic.
Sure, Pujols had what I'm certain he would consider a disappointing seven innings of play, going 0-3 at the plate and committing a costly error at first base in the first inning. Disappointing, because Pujols is one of the brightest stars in Major League Baseball and is in hot pursuit of the elusive Triple Crown at the season's mid-point.
But the American League got a big hit from Curtis Granderson and an outstanding catch in the outfield from Carl Crawford, helping the AL to a 4-3 victory, running their winning streak to seven, and their unbeaten streak to 13 games over the NL in Major League Baseball's All-Star competition.
That's quite a long stretch of domination.
Still, with the All-Star game back in St. Louis for the first time since 1966, when the old Busch Stadium was just a couple of months old, El Hombre still came up big in front of the Gateway City faithful.
Playing catcher for President Barack Obama, Pujols scooped up a low throw on the ceremonial first pitch, keeping the sinking toss from hitting the ground in front of home plate and bouncing in the dirt.
That's a big save.
No one, not politician, movie star, athlete or any other dignitary firing one in from 60 feet, six inches, wants to have their pitch skid in the dirt to home plate. Or hook like a bad tee shot and end up 20 feet left or right of the dish.
Especially the leader of the free world. With Russia, China and all the other world super powers watching, it's important that the Commander in Chief handle this task with ease and grace.
But Pujols did what a good catcher is supposed to do - he had his pitcher's back. Although the baseball was a few feet short of home, Pujols casually dropped his glove down, moved forward a bit and snagged the throw.
Now, I'm not a big fan of politics and I'm really not much for pre-game ceremonies, either.
But I understand that politics and pre-game ceremonies seem to go hand-in-hand in events such as the All-Star game. And that's fine.
And give credit to our President. Instead of playing it safe like most politicians do and cheating by tossing the first pitch from the lower portion of the mound, he stood on the rubber and threw it like it should have been thrown.
So that should draw props from both sides of the political fence.
However, since the All-Star game was back in St. Louis for the first time in 43 years, I really would have liked to have seen someone else get the opportunity to throw out the first pitch.
Someone that is a living, breathing St, Louis Cardinals legend and is still as popular today as he was decades ago.
Stan "The Man" Musial.
Musial did hand the ball to President Obama at the All-Star game, so he was included in the first pitch festivities.
But how cool would that have been to see Stan "The Man" fire the first pitch to Pujols, a player who is now drawing comparisons to the un-forgettable Musial?
Pretty cool, I think.
And I'm betting that Musial would have delivered a pitch on a rope, keeping Pujols from having to save it from the dirt.
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Since my own high school sports career fizzled out before it really reached its zenith, I have managed to live vicariously through the student/athletes of the 16 high schools I've covered for Areawide Media since 2001. I've witnessed the highest of highs in the form of state championships. I have also seen first-hand the sting of disappointment when the ultimate prize was within reach, but still eluded the grasp of its pursuer. But through all the ups and downs associated with high school sports, my respect for the young competitors that suit up each night, along with the men and women who guide them, remains unwavering. Blog mission: With my passion for music, especially live music, running second only to my passion for sports, I'll try to devote this space to both. Especially when it concerns our region and what's happening around it. Look for commentary and features on area sports figures and musicians, along with things to get out and do in the beautiful Spring River/Ozarks area. But I'll not totally ignore the outside - I'll also hit on some national happenings in the wide worlds of sports and music.