Two hours before its season debut Friday, Angel Stadium was overcome with a red-hot buzz, folks dressed in bright jerseys and dazzling hopes filling the lots and crowding the gates, when one hip dude in a red polo shirt and new goatee rushed past everyone and scurried down to the batting cage.

It was Arte Moreno, and on opening day, he was going to get his 240 million dollars' worth.

"I told my wife we had to get here early," Moreno said with a grin. "I didn't want to miss batting practice."

Around here, it's no longer batting practice, it's Pujols Practice, the best time of the day to watch the Pujols Presence knock balls off waterfalls and freeways.

It was the first regular-season appearance under the halo for the most angelic hitter in baseball, and everywhere Albert Pujols stepped, cameras clicked, people wearing his name on their backs cheered, and an owner swooned.

"Have you watched him? He's just a machine," said Moreno.

Behind the cage, between swings, the owner officially welcomed his biggest investment to the regular season with a giant hug — "I wished him the best, I wished him the very best."

Then the boss retired upstairs to spend the next six or seven months — like all Angels fans — holding his breath for exactly that.

Pujols was brought here from St. Louis this winter to make this team the best, the very best, and nothing less will fly.

"Everywhere in Los Angeles, you can feel a buzz, everybody talking about Albert and this team," said Moreno. "But now we've got to play the games."