LOS ANGELES — The scene at Dodger Stadium resembled a movie with its protagonist — Albert Pujols — circling the bases after cementing himself in baseball immortality. The crowd of 50,041 got exactly what it came to see — one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time make history.
I was fortunate enough to be in attendance to witness Pujols’ 700th career home run in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 11-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers last Friday night. It was unlike any game I had ever covered.
In addition to being Bally Sports’ national baseball writer, I’m an analyst on Apple TV MLB broadcasts. Here’s what it was like to be in the booth calling baseball history.
A lot of prep work is done before a broadcast, but this wasn’t just any broadcast. With Pujols looking to join the 700-homer club, the expectations were high. The feat, if achieved, would be momentous.
My excitement grew as the game got closer. Before leaving the hotel for the ballpark, I spoke with play-by-play man Wayne Randazzo. Of the two of us, I had the easy job that night. I just had to react. He had to be ready to call history.
I asked him, “How do you feel?”
He looked unfazed and replied, “I feel good. How do you feel?”
Without hesitation, I looked at him and said, “I feel like being part of history.”
We both smiled. But we couldn’t have predicted what would come hours later.
Games at Dodger Stadium have a different vibe. The stars are always out, and this night was no exception. There were Hall of Famers like Dave Winfield and future Hall of Famers like Adrian Beltre in the stands. Even mega agent Scott Boras was in attendance. And the energy in the ballpark was palpable as the stage was set for history to be made.
About an hour before first pitch, I could feel butterflies starting to set in. I wasn’t nervous about calling the game. That has become second nature over the last few months. But as someone who loves baseball history and understood the gravity of the situation, I wanted to do right by it.
Once the game started, all of that was in the rearview mirror.
With every Pujols at-bat, my job as the analyst was very simple — get out of the way. There was no need for analysis. No need for filler. Just let the moment and Randazzo do the talking. The moment is about Pujols, not us in the booth.
But unlike our other broadcasts, I had the opportunity to do something I wouldn’t normally do. I took out my phone out and shot a video. After all, who doesn’t want to be able to relive history. And I’m glad I did. Because Pujols did what we had all come to see him do.
“He drives this one, it’s deep to left. And that is 699 for Albert Pujols,” Randazzo exclaimed as Pujols’ 434-foot, third-inning blast landed in the left-field seats.
The energy in the ballpark, which was already high, went to another level. Every pitch, every at-bat and every inning felt like the appetizer to the main course — Pujols’ next at-bat and first shot at No. 700.
The 42-year-old Pujols has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to milestone home runs. His 499th and 500th home runs came in a multi-homer game, and his 600th was a grand slam. So the stage was set for another memorable milestone.
In the fourth inning, the L.A. crowd rose to its feet as the man who ranks fourth on the all-time home run list walked to the plate. The fans’ anticipation grew with each pitch. And when Phil Bickford’s 1-1 slider left his hand, Dodger Stadium erupted in a way that is burned into my memory forever. So will Randazzo’s call:
“Pujols hits one in the air. It’s deep to left. Taylor’s back at the wall. It’s 700! Albert Pujols has joined the 700 home run club.”
Working in baseball as a career, it’s easy to become numb to significant moments. As a writer, you’re thinking about turning the things you see into stories and using your words to paint a picture for your readers. But as Pujols circled the bases with the roar of a sellout crowd showering him with admiration, I had time to do something we rarely get to do.
To my left, I had my play-by-play partner, Randazzo, and his booming baritone voice making an iconic call that will be heard for generations. To my right, my other partner, fellow analyst Chris Young, was excited and in awe of what he just saw.
Sitting in the booth of the late, great Vin Scully, who called so many of the game’s most memorable moments, and overlooking one of baseball’s most revered cathedrals while one of its all-time greats made history, one thing kept coming to mind.
This is why we do this.
All of it. Writing. Reporting. Broadcasting. It’s to be able to share these cool moments that we’ll remember for a lifetime and continue to experience the joy of baseball that we’ve had since our youth.
Regardless of where you watch it, who you root for or how the game evolves, baseball, even after 146 years, is still really cool. And we may never see another player reach 700 home runs.
Last Friday in L.A., Albert Pujols provided the baseball community with another opportunity to enjoy the game together. Here’s to more legendary moments.