I moved to Missouri when I was 6 years old.

I came from Alabama, which was unquestionably Braves country. It was 2000, and Atlanta was in the middle of an incredible run of division success.

My dad grew up in the northwest corner of Alabama, and he supported the Braves due to geography, but he spent his childhood listening to KMOX and cheering on the Cardinals.

A move to Missouri was pretty perfect for his lifelong, long-distance fandom. And it would prove more than enough to woo me away from a love of Chipper Jones and the later years of the Big Three.

We lived a few hours from St. Louis, so my first chance to get to a game at Busch II wasn’t until the 2001 season. I’ll never forget walking through the tunnel and having the light break over me, instantly hit with so many sensations.

Hearing the chatter of the crowd and the calls from the concessions vendors. The green tiers lined with flags of past championships and retired numbers.

As a 7-year-old, it was a treat to see the final season of Mark McGwire. It was even more special to see a rookie Albert Pujols begin his Hall of Fame career.

The hype

I know every era of Cardinal fan has their stories of what it was like to be a kid in the fandom. I’m well aware I hit the jackpot with my time.

As a kid obsessed with baseball in Missouri in the early 2000s, Albert Pujols was everywhere. A friend of mine had a “Got Milk?” poster on his closet door with a full-size Albert sporting a milk mustache. There were bat days, bobbleheads and trading cards. On the “wear red” day of the classic Red Ribbon Week, the school hallways were a sea of Pujols shirseys.

There were myriad mentions in the mainstream media, too. I’ll never forget seeing Albert’s ESPN spot, titled “The Machine.”