All-Star Game one Pujols will never forget

All-Star Game one Pujols won't forget

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols had won two MVP's, a World Series and played in seven All-Star Games before taking the field at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night.

But during his nine-year Major League career, the St. Louis slugger had never experienced what happened to him when he took the field in front of his home crowd in the 80th MLB All-Star Game.

"It was almost getting to the point where I got a little bit emotional," Pujols said. "Because yesterday and today, the way that the fans treat me and [Ryan] Franklin and [Yadier Molina] -- it was pretty special, and I wasn't expecting anything different. That's how we feel every night from these fans. They are the best fans in baseball."

Pujols, who went 0-for-3 at the plate and was robbed of a hit on a nice snag by the Rangers' Michael Young, received a lengthy ovation when he took the field during player introductions prior to the game. He paused to tip his cap to the different areas of the ballpark as fans continued to stand and cheer. The flashbulbs and noise continued until FOX broadcaster Joe Buck finally ended the applause by moving on to the next player.

When Pujols stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first, the hometown fans again rose to their feet to show their appreciation for their hometown hero.

"It [was] an unbelievable experience," Pujols said. "It's going to be hard to have that experience again."

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, playing in his first All-Star Game, started and made his presence felt early when he threw to third base for a forceout on a dribbler by Joe Mauer in the first inning. Molina then came up with two on and two outs in the bottom of the second and roped a single up the middle to score a run. An overthrow to third base brought in a second run to tie the game.

Prince Fielder then doubled to score Molina and give the National League a brief 3-2 lead. Overall, the Cardinals catcher played eight innings and was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored in his All-Star debut.

"Base hit up the middle on an 0-2 count, getting an RBI, it felt good," Molina said. "I just tried to make contact and try to get a base hit, and he gave me a pitch where I could drive it up the middle, so I did."

Molina caught Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin, who followed NL starter Tim Lincecum by pitching a 1-2-3 third inning. Like Molina and Pujols, the first-time All-Star was greeted with a large hometown welcome when he was introduced to the crowd. It was 10 years in the making, but Franklin said he wouldn't soon forget the experience.

"It was by far the highlight of my career," Franklin said of his night. "I knew who I was going to face and I had a little game plan in my mind, but yeah, when I got done, my heart was racing more than when I was out there.

"I'll definitely remember it, and my family will, too."

An admittedly tired Pujols committed an error in the first inning that led to two American League runs. The Gold Glove defender was screened by runner Mauer and booted what could have possibly been a double-play ball that would have ended the inning. Pujols made up for his defensive blunder with two strong plays later in the game, including a diving stop to his right and a flip to first for the out.

"I think that's the best thing I did this week," Pujols said of his stop. "But I think it was a makeup. It was the ball that I missed that I should have made -- all I had to do was catch it.

"The ball was hit in between second and first, and I just kind of got lost a little bit. It kind of handcuffed me, because it went through Mauer's legs almost. I kind of lost that vision, but that's an error you don't want to make early in the game like that. It cost us two runs. But hey, it's part of the game. You learn from the experience."

But despite the error, a hitless performance at the plate and a losing effort by his NL squad, Pujols said this was an All-Star Game that he would never forget.

"You put it all together, hosting the All-Star Game here in the place that you play with the fans and everybody, and a special presence by the president showing up and throwing the first pitch," Pujols said. "Probably, it will be the best All-Star Game that I'm ever going to have.

"I was so happy for this guy [Franklin] and Yadi, for their first All-Star team and being on my team and knowing the kind of year they are having. I was so excited for them. Having it here in our city, I knew our fans were going to open up and greet us with open arms. Like I said before, that didn't shock me. That's what they did for the last nine years. That's St. Louis."

B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.