Albert Pujols tallies a record 14 total bases, Cardinals win 16-7 in World Series Game 3

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Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols drew heavy amounts of criticism for leaving the Busch Stadium clubhouse before talking to the media following Thursday’s Game 2 loss. A few national baseball writers even questioned his leadership, given that younger players like Jason Motte, Jon Jay and Allen Craig were left to handle all of the heat.

Let’s go ahead and toss that narrative aside. It never really made much sense in the first place.

Pujols put together one of the greatest single-game performances in World Series history during Saturday night’s 16-7 Game 3 trouncing of the Rangers, finishing 5-for-6 with three home runs, six RBI and four runs scored. He tallied 14 total bases, breaking a longstanding Fall Classic record and vaulting himself into the elite rung of postseason performers.

Babe Ruth. Reggie Jackson. Albert Pujols.

Those are the only three men in the history of baseball to launch three home runs in a World Series game.

Leadership — true leadership — is something that has to be built and then cultivated through consistent, physical examples. It’s never been established through words alone, nor has it ever been betrayed by a single, rare mistake. What Pujols did Thursday night in St. Louis was wrong. Answering questions is part of being a professional. But to suggest that the other players in the Cardinals’ dugout somehow lost faith or respect in baseball’s greatest right-handed slugger was a stretch from the start. A failed assumption.

Pujols left no doubt on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, with those scribes who questioned him looking on in awe. He answered the call and then some. And now his Cardinals hold an improbable 2-1 lead in the seven-game Fall Classic. Have we mentioned, already, that this series has the feel of an instant classic?

Tigers, Royals to play a regular season game in Omaha next year

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Major League Baseball announced today that the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers will play a regular season game in Omaha, Nebraska next year to open the festivities for the College World Series.

The game will be played on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha two days before the first game of the Series. It will be televised nationally by ESPN. TD Ameritrade Park has a seating capacity of 24,000, with the ability to expand to 35,000 spectators. Which, um, probably means this will be one of the larger crowds for the Royals next year if the club’s current trajectory continues.

This will be the fourth small-park, special occasion regular season game for Major League Baseball in recent years. hIn July 2016 the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins played at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for service members. Last August the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals played in the inaugural Little League Classic, which took place at Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. There will be a second Little League Classic in Williamsport this August between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets.