By JIM VOREL - H&R Staff Writer | Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 2:45 pm
DECATUR - Cardinal fans throughout Decatur reacted with mixed emotions Thursday afternoon to the announcement of free agent first baseman Albert Pujols' acceptance of a 10-year, $250 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Even the most jaded Cardinals fan would still probably be surprised, however, to learn that Pro Image Sports, a shop in Forsyth's Hickory Point Mall, has decided to deal with the departure in the most straight-forward manner there is - by giving away all Albert Pujols merchandise for free, beginning at 6 p.m.
"Compared to some of the other stores we don't have a ton of Pujols merchandise on hand right now, but everything we have will be given away," said Pro Image manager Nathan Brunner, who said the store was holding "about 20" Pujols jerseys, tee shirts and player plaques.
"We just figured, Pujols always said ‘it's not about the money' with this contract he signed, and if he doesn't need that money, then we might as well give away the rest of his merchandise for free."
The promotion, conceived by the chain's owner, Andy Nichols, will also be underway tonight at Pro Image locations in Springfield, Peoria and Bloomington. Brunner, who is himself a longtime Cardinals fan, said the departure of Pujols was decidedly bittersweet both as a fan and a retailer.
"I am a Cardinals fan, but right now I'm not sure what to think," he said. "On one hand I'm mad, but on the other I want to thank Albert for the decade of baseball he put in. My emotions are all over the board right now. It's going to leave a bad taste in a lot of peoples' mouths though, and we won't be stocking more Pujols stuff."
Elsewhere in the mall, MC Sports manager Scott Nicol said the store was now stuck with "an exceptional stock" of Pujols-branded items that were clearly intended as Christmas gifts, including several hundred tee shirts in addition to jerseys and memorabilia. He suggested that significant discounts to Pujols products would likely be in effect by the end of the day, and noted that returns of Pujols items already purchased as gifts could be on the horizon.
"It's certainly a possibility; it's happened before when there have been transitions like this," Nicol said. "I hope not. It's hard to say what will happen."