ST. LOUIS -- Ozzie Smith doesn't want to consider the possibility that this could be Albert Pujols' last game as a Cardinal at Busch Stadium. And he has a very simple reason why.
"I don't think we're going to miss him, because I don't think he's going," Smith said minutes after throwing the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Friday. "I think he'll be a Cardinal for life."
Smith said it's "just a gut feeling" he has that Pujols will re-sign with the Cardinals as a free agent this offseason. But on this Friday night, Pujols and his future wasn't priority No. 1 among Cardinals fans. It was figuring out a way to beat Zack Greinke, head back to Milwaukee with a 3-2 series lead and get two chances to clinch the pennant at Miller Park.
Minutes before taking the field in hopes of making that happen, the Cardinals called on a "Wizard" to throw out their first pitch.
Smith may have never played at this stadium during a Hall of Fame career that ended in 1996, but he knows this town very well.
"It's such a national pastime here," Smith said. "To be part of the rich tradition that this city has, as far as baseball is concerned, it's always special."
Smith made three trips to the World Series (winning one), collected 11 Gold Glove Awards and was invited to the All-Star Game 14 times while playing 15 of his 19 seasons in St. Louis. Smith played until his age-41 season, made the All-Star team each of his last three seasons and, at 56, still looks lean and energetic.
He can probably still pick it.
"Well, not like I did when I was 25. But you know, I could probably still be playing a couple innings," Smith said. "Just not every day."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.