- Albert grew up in the Dominican, the youngest of 11 children, but with no mother, and his Dad going off for long periods of time to work. His grandmother and grandfather really raised him. The family was poor, living in a camp-like setting. They often needed government assistance. Some of his aunts also raised him at times.
"Growing up in the Dominican, I wasn't poor like a lot of people down there, I was middle class," Pujols related to ESPN's Peter Gammons in 2004. "Where I didn't have everything, my family did whatever they can to get me a pair of shoes or a pair of batting gloves. Just because of the support I have from my family, that is why I am in the big leagues."
- Albert was playing baseball at age 6 as often as possible, following in his Dad's footsteps.
- Albert's father, Bienvenido Pujols, was a great softball pitcher in the Dominican Republic. Albert idolized him; he would wear his father's jerseys around his neighborhood in Santo Domingo. After a softball game was over, Bienvenido often stayed around with his friends, had a few drinks. When Bienvenido was done, Albert would drag and carry his father back to the house. Albert was 10 years old.
The memory does not haunt him—Albert Pujols still idolizes his father. Rather, it explains him. "God made me older," Albert says, and this is the defining quality of his life.
An only child, he was primarily raised by his grandmother, America Pujols, and by 10 uncles and aunts he still calls his brothers and sisters. He grew up on baseball and lived the archetypal life of a Dominican boy. He remembers playing catch with limes, using a glove made from a milk carton, and playing in games with players four and five years older.
(Joe Posnanski-Sports Illustrated-3/16/09)
Albert says that when he was growing up he shared a pair of spkes and a glove with a friend. He was around 10 or 11 when he owned his first bat and glove.
In high school, as a senior, he was walked 55 times in protest because opposing coaches believed he was older than 18, but he still hit eight home runs in 33 at bats.
Pujols's mother and father divorced when he was three but maintained an amicable relationship. Albert was raised by his grandmother and father in a single-level, three-bedroom, one-bathroom house shared by 10 people. His father, Bienvenido, was a house painter and one of the country's best softball pitchers. Bienvenido had one requirement of his team as it traveled around the D.R.: "If there is not a seat for my son, I won't go." There was always a seat for Albert.
When Pujols was growing up, the Braves were on TV a lot, and they had a lot of Dominican players.
"My favorite was Julio Franco," Albert said. "He was one of the best hitters all-time coming from the Dominican Republic."
Estadio Quisqueya, with its single horseshoe deck of seating and its awninglike roof, was built in Santo Domingo in 1955 and originally named for Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic's dictator and a baseball aficionado. Almost all the great Dominican baseball stars have passed through Estadio Quisqueya, mostly in winter league ball or off-season workouts. In the 1980s, Pujols's stepfather operated a little store underneath Quisqueya's stands, where he sold sandwiches, soda and beer. As a boy Albert helped his stepfather at the store. One of the perks of the job was early access to the empty ballpark, and Albert would marvel at the batting-practice feats of Raul Mondesi, Sammy Sosa and other Dominican stars as the noise of professional hitting echoed across 14,829 empty seats.
No other hitter, however, was as engrossing to watch as Julio Franco. Every swing seemed to be a merengue in miniature, a dance of flourish and filigree in which the barrel of Franco's bat began pointed at the pitcher, was drawn back and, after a dramatic leg kick, came around in a tight arc, more often than not sending line drives whistling into the rightfield gap-the signature result of what hitters call keeping the hands "inside the ball," or close to the body through the hitting zone.
"I remember me and my friends watching Julio Cesar Franco," Pujols says, smiling at the memory. "Everybody in the D.R. wanted to be like him-staying inside the ball."
- He's the youngest of 11 children. When Albert was young, his uncle moved from the Dominican Republic to New York, but realized the cost of living was too high for the rest of the Pujols clan. The uncle found that life could be good in Independence, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City.
Gradually, Albert's grandmother and six brothers moved to Kansas City. Albert and his Dad followed when Albert was 16. As many as 10 members of the Pujols clan lived in a small home. Always the quick learner, Albert learned English in less than a year.
- Cardinals' fans show their appreciation for Albert by chanting "POOH!" when he is introduced at the plate.
- In 1997, Albert helped Fort Osage High School win a state championship. In 1998 he enrolled in college, spending the year playing junior college baseball at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Missouri.
In his first junior college game, playing shortstop, he turned an unassisted triple play and hit a grand slam.
- Albert slipped below baseball's radar. In the 1999 draft, he was the 402nd choice. His bonus from the Cardinals was only $60,000. But, most people don't know that Pujols' contract also included a $30,000 bonus for reaching the majors, and $30,000 for school (which he never received.
David Karaff, the scout who recommended Pujols to the Cardinals, was fired in 2003—four years after the Cardinals drafted Pujols. The former scount wound up taking a job at a WalMart in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Gordon Edes-Boston Globe)
- "Since I was a little kid, I knew I had the opportunity to play pro ball," the soft-spoken Albert said. He doesn't act presumptuous. He is usually the first Cardinal in uniform every game. His nice, easy-going personality makes him popular in the clubhouse.
- Pujols could have been playing for the Red Sox. Boston came real close to drafting him in 1999, when it blew first-round picks on Rick Asadoorian, Brad Baker, and Casey Fossum. (Editor's note: If he was the 402nd choice, every other Major League passed on him too.)
Midway through the draft's first day, Pujols's name rose to the top of Boston's draft board. His age couldn't be verified beyond a shadow of a doubt and his asking price was in the six figures, but his bat was enticing. So scouting director Wayne Britton placed a call to Pujols.
Britton asked Pujols, then an infielder at Maple Woods (Missouri) Community College, if he'd consider signing for ninth- or 10th-round money. Pujols said no, so Britton passed him up. The Cardinals took Pujols in the 13th round, and they initially offered him $10,000. He spent most of the summer of 1999 playing in the Jayhawk Summer League, then Pujols signed with the Cards for a $60,000 bonus late in August. He headed almost immediately to instructional league after that.
(Jim Callis-Baseball America-11/04/04)
- Those who watched Albert's amateur career remember the almost mythical blasts he hit at various times. For example, he nailed a ball at Liberty High School in Missouri that went over the 402-foot fence in centerfield and off an air conditioning unit atop a two-story building. He sent a drive over the leftfield wall at Highland Community College in Kansas, which sailed across a street and over a tree.
- In 2000, Pujols was Midwest League MVP and the Cardinals' Minor League Player of the Year.
- Albert is coachable. He applies instruction well. "The best thing I have going for me—my ability to listen to a coach and fix what I'm doing wrong so fast."
- He has a serious, mature approach to the game, along with a real love for it.
- April 2000: In the Cardinals' home opener, Pujols became the first rookie in 47 years (Wally Moon in 1954) to homer in his first game with the team.
- One-time Cards' hitting coach Mike Easler said, "His aptitude is so high. Obviously, his parents did a great job. He is responsible, he's respectful, works hard, and always wants to learn."
- Pujols says the priorities in his life are God, family, and career, in that order. "Always been that way," he says.
Albert deeply believes that God has given him the baseball platform to do good work.
MARRIES DEE DEE
- Albert met his then-future wife, Deidre (Dee Dee) when he was just 18 years old. She thought he was 21, because they met in a Kansas City dance club that was for people 21 and older. On their first date, he admitted being only 18. She revealed something too: she had a baby daughter, Isabella, who had been born with Down syndrome. Pujols quickly fell in love with both of them.
What strikes Dee Dee is how Albert seemed entirely driven to be something more than just a baseball star. He did not drink. He would not even be in the same room as a smoker. He did not get tattoos. He never wore an earring. He wasn't interested in going out with the boys. He played baseball, and he went to church, and that seemed about all that interested him.
- On New Years Day 2000, he married Deidre. She is three years older than Albert, who was 19 when he married her. Her parents are of Mexican and Irish heritage. He became a father to her daughter, Isabella, who has Down's syndrome.
- After Albert's one season in the minors, he got a part-time catering job at a Kansas City-area country club. "We didn't have any money," Albert says. "It was hard." They spent $150 on their wedding. Their honeymoon was in Peoria, Albert's first minor league stop.
- Then, on January 10, 2001, Albert and Deidre (or Dee Dee) brought Albert Jose, Jr. into the world. They call him "A.J."
- Albert and Deidre attend Kansas City Baptist Temple. And they tithe (donate 10 percent to the church).
"We both know we shouldn't hold out on God. God is Albert's source," Deidre says. And Albert said, "I'm lucky I've got a good wife who's good to me. We have a great family. She's going to be the one I live forever with. We have two kids, one with Down's syndrome. Besides living through the Lord, what else can be better than your family?"
His impact on the Cardinals reaches far beyond the numbers he posts. As a rookie in 2001, his consistency through the whole season was tremendous. On the rare occasions he made a "rookie" mistake, teammates didn't hesitate to point it out to him, and he never pouted about the criticism, instead correcting the problem. It made him an even better player. By the end of the 2001 season, his approach was exemplary.
- Third base coach Jose Oquendo has served as Pujols's most significant mentor, providing a soothing voice and hitting him countless grounders.
- Because he is such a big guy, Albert will always have to work hard during the winters to stay quick and in shape.
- In the spring of 2001, when Mark McGwire first saw Albert, he was extremely impressed with him. "He's all ears. I've never seen anybody pay attention like him," McGwire told Jim Palmer.
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa gave Pujols the biggest complement for a player. "A lot of guys have talent and play below it,'' La Russa said. "This guy keeps maximizing his talent and keeps wanting to learn. The way he works, the way he's willing to learn. He's the best player I ever managed.''
LaRussa has managed Carlton Fisk, Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, and Dave Stewart. So that is quite a compliment. "He has the work ethic," La Russa said. "He prepares. He's intelligent about making adjustments. He has a hunger, a willingness to keep learning. He's never content. After he won Rookie of the Year, his response was to work harder. After he had his outstanding second season in 2002, he pushed even more.
"And what puts him over the top for me is a big part of his motivation is winning the game that day. When you have a great player who is putting up huge numbers, but recognizing that this is a team competition, and all that matters is winning and losing, he goes right to the top. His No. 1 motivation as a player is finding a way to win."
Pujols's impatience with unsolicited suggestions, however, is well-known. He can be curt with teammates who approach him immediately after an ugly at-bat, dismissive to outsiders who encroach on his pre-game preparation, and sullen when struggling.
In 2002, two veteran teammates approached manager Tony La Russa about Pujols's disposition. La Russa dismissed the complaints. "They were players who really didn't have a feel for what were the team's real concerns," the manager said. "You look at how far he's come as a player in two years," said Mike Matheny, a winter workout partner of Pujols's. "He's a central player on this team. There are people coming at him from every angle who want something from him. To his credit, he's able to keep his focus. Some people may have trouble understanding that. But there's probably no way he can make everyone happy."
- In 2003, Pujols's contract had a $50,000 bonus that paid off when he ade the National League All Star team.
- On a shelf in Albert's locker sits a ceramic baseball with a verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes on it: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." The ball was a gift from Pujols's wife, Dee Dee.
- "You see him celebrate somebody else's base hit more than his own. He's really just trying to help us win. That's out of the [Stan] Musial, [Red] Schoendienst and [Lou] Brock era. He's just out there playing. The numbers and the money take care of themselves. That's why I admire him," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said in 2004.
In 2004, Pujols was named Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series, posting .500 batting average, 10 runs scored, four home runs, and nine runs batted in. He helped the Cardinals beat the Astros to become the NL champ (before losing the World Series to the Red Sox).
He had 14 hits in the series, setting an NLCS record, and tied Hideki Matsui of the Yankees for the most in either league. He had an NLCS record 28 total bases (also tying Matsui) while his four homers equaled the LCS mark. He became only the fifth player in LCS history to hit .500 or better in a series.
Albert won the 2005 National League MVP Award. He edged Andruw Jones of the Braves for the prize. Pujols received 18 first place votes and 14 seconds for 378 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Jones, the Atlanta Braves center fielder, got 13 first-place votes, 17 seconds and two thirds for 351 points.
At a December 2005 charity auction, Pujols bid $2,500 for the glove Roger Clemens wore during his 300th win, then gave the glove, along with a hug and a kiss, to Miki Cunningham, a teenager with Down Syndrome.
And in January 2006, at the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America auction, Albert bid $5,000 for an autographed Chris Carpenter jersey, five times the 2nd-highest bid, then passed the jersey along to the 2nd-highest bidder.
February 7, 2007: Albert officially became a United States citizen when he was sworn in by U.S. District Court judge Richard E. Webber. The ceremony at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse culminated a nearly yearlong process.
Pujols received a perfect score on the oral and written exam, according to Chester Moyer, officer in charge of the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service's St. Louis branch. The 10-15 minute exam included questions about the American form of government, the function of its three branches, how a judicial proceeding works, and the nation's history.
2008: Albert was presented with the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to a major league player who combines community service with excellence on the field.
Pujols received the award in a ceremony at Citizens Bank Park before Game 3 of the World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies. He was selected from 30 nominees, one from each major league team, by a committee that included commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, Roberto’s widow.
He was honored for his work with the Pujols Family Foundation, which helps the lives of children and young adults with Down Syndrome. The foundation has helped more than 500 families affected by Down Syndrome in the St. Louis area, with various programs and fundraising events.
In 2008, Pujols was named the National League MVP for the second time. He is the first Dominican player to be named MVP twice. This time, Albert beat out the Phillies' Ryan Howard, who garnered 12 first place votes to the 18 Pujols received.
In 2009, Albert was named National League MVP for the third time. He is the 10th player in history to win three MVPs, and the fifth to win it three times in the National League. He is the 12th player to win back-to-back MVP awards. The last was Barry Bonds, who won it four straight years from 2001-04.
In 2010, Pujols finished second in the NL MVP voting, behind Joey Votto of the Reds.
2009: In the midst of all the steroids finger pointing, Albert said, "You know how I want people to remember me? I don’t want to be remembered as the best baseball player ever. I want to be remembered as a great guy who loved the Lord, loved to serve the community, and who gave back."
None of the accusations suggesting Pujols was using steroids ever proved true.
"Why would I lie?" Pujols said in 2009. "I don't play this game for money, for my family, or for fans. I play to glorify God because of the talent He has given me. Maybe some people don't want to hear that, but it's the truth. What you do eventuallly will come into the light. So why should I lie now for the truth to come out in a month, a year or five years?
"My responsibility has been the same since my first day as a pro," Albert says. "My first responsibility is to represent God. I fear God too much to do anything stupid in the game. If I can stay healthy, I can accomplish what I want: to keep on winning and to one day reach the Hall of Fame."
Albert's wife, Deidre, has a signature dish that she calls, "Home Run Chicken" that she shares in a cookbook written by the wife of Marlins owner, Jeffrey Loria, Julie, called "Diamond Dishes."
Pujols departed St. Louis for Los Angeles with a top-10 career mark in virtually every significant offensive category -- this for a franchise with more than a century of distinguished history. He's fourth all-time in hits, third in runs, and second in total bases, doubles, home runs, RBIs and walks -- behind only Stan Musial in all five of those latter categories.
Albert left with a .328 batting average, a .420 on-base percentage and a .617 slugging percentage. He's already amassed 445 home runs, one category where he was closing fast on Musial, who hit 475. His 1,329 RBIs and 1,291 runs were already starting to approach Hall of Fame territory.
Along with manager Tony La Russa, he was the dominant face of a 12-year stretch in which the Cardinals were playoff perennials. In Pujols' 11 seasons, They made the postseason seven times. They won the World Series twice and made it to the Fall Classic three times. Pujols played on the winning side in 10 playoff series as a Cardinal.
In May 2012, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the Pujols Family Foundation has plans to expand to Kansas City, Nashville, and Southern California. The program primarily serves people with down syndrome, but also funds anti-poverty, medical and youth baseball programs in Pujols' native Dominican Republic.
September 16, 2012: Albert's wife, Deidre, gave birth to the couple's fifth child, and third daughter. She delivered baby Esther Grace over two weeks early.
Pujols is one of the most charitable athletes around and fully aware of the responsibilities that come with fame. But he's very selective about when he makes himself available and won't let anything stand in the way of his routine. It's why he's so difficult to track down for interviews, why you don't see him in commercials and why "congenial" isn't a word anyone would use to describe him.
In some ways, though, he believes he's misunderstood.
"Like I said the other day with Trout—you have to learn how to say no sometimes, because those are distractions you don't want in your game," Pujols said. "That's why a lot of people read me wrong. They'll say I'm moody and this and that. But when I'm doing my work, it's my work. If I want to be successful, I have to focus on my job 100 percent. And then later, if I have time, then I'll do it. But that's how my Mom and Dad raised me."
His first at bat in spring training always gives him jitters, he said early in March, 2013, as does his first at-bat in the regular season and the playoffs.
So how does he combat that feeling? Pujols said he thinks of some heady advice from his father, who frequently told him when growing up, "If you're not nervous, you're not ready."
March 15, 2013: Pujols, five months removed from right knee surgery, ran the bases in a Cactus League game—all by himself. It seems strange to even have to note that, but the Angels were granted the rare allowance of using a "courtesy runner" for Pujols in his three previous appearances in a spring exhibition game. The condition of the right leg was still shaky enough to prevent Pujols from doing anything in the field, aside from fielding a few ground balls in morning workouts.
Pujols is a nine-time All Star, three-time National League MVP and six-time Silver Slugger winner. But when Mark McGwire looks at Pujols, he sees something Pujols used to see in McGwire—a baseball player with a strong desire to be the best.
"His work ethic is far and beyond anybody that I know," McGwire said. "He's relentless. Right now, playing through what he's playing through, bad foot, bad knee. Guys like that don't come along too much. I got to see him in his rookie year and seeing him now, how he's grown as a player, as a person, playing through pain. He never wants to be out of the lineup."
While Pujols insists he does not play for numbers, McGwire is aware of Pujols' numbers and often reminds his friend just how great he is.
"He always tells me that," a beaming Pujols said. "Anytime we have a conversation he tells me that. It means a lot, but I still have a lot of career left in my lifetime hopefully. I just try to go one day at a time." When Pujols retires and does decide to look back at his numbers, he and McGwire will have at least 1,066 home runs, 2,879 RBIs, 21 All-Star games, four World Series rings and plenty of memories.
"At the end, we are all going to hang our jersey, but the best thing you have is the memories from the time you played," Pujols said. "I think that's more important than anything else." (5/31/13)
Angels superstar Albert Pujols appeared in a short film in partnership with I Am Second, a movement meant to inspire others through the life stories of athletes, actors, models, musicians, pastors, politicians, etc.
The short film consists of Pujols sitting on a white couch, with a black T-shirt and a black background, while talking about his life -- his move from the Dominican Republic, his marriage, his daughter with Down syndrome and, mostly, his faith.
The film can be seen on iamsecond.com. Other professional sports figures including Josh Hamilton, Matt Barkley, Joe Gibbs, Clayton Kershaw and Jason Witten have also appeared in videos.
Pujols was approached about the idea four or five years ago.
"The most important thing in my life is to be able to share my testimony with everybody," Pujols said. "I think this is a great opportunity, to see what's the most important thing in my life, which is my relationship with Jesus Christ. It was an easy yes for me."
Pujols shares how there is more to him than his many baseball accomplishments.
"A friend of mine challenged me about four years ago to ask every guy that gets to first base what the most important thing in their life is," said Pujols. "The response I sometimes get is why I am asking such a question and I tell them it is because there's more to life than this game."
Pujols dreamed of playing baseball from a young age. He grew up in poverty in the Dominican Republic, before his family moved to the United States in 1996. Before long, his dreams began to come true and it seemed baseball would be the focus of his life. But then he met his wife, Deidre. Her faith and Down syndrome daughter Isabella, gave Pujols a new perspective on life. Through his journey raising Isabella as his own, Pujols became a stronger man of faith.
"I don't want people to remember me as just a baseball player," Pujols says in his I Am Second film. "To me, off the field is more important than what I do on the field. Sure, I want to be a great baseball player, but I also wanted to be a Godly daddy and husband, setting an example for my kids. If you would ask me this 20 years ago, I would have told you that I thought it was about me." (Alden Gonzalez - 7/02/13)
- October 2013: The Pujols Kitchen wrapped up its most successful Facebook campaign to date, helping increase social media awareness on the company’s mission—using profits from the sales of its cookware to address poverty globally, one family at a time.
After the company’s Facebook page reached 2,500 likes, it gave away a Baseball Bat Pepper Grinder signed by Albert Pujols, first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With the pepper grinder, the winner also received the official Pujols Kitchen cookbook signed by founder Deidre Pujols, wife of the star baseball player.
The Pujols Kitchen is updating its current cookbook of Dominican-inspired and Pujols family recipes for debut later this year. The cookbook features beautiful, vibrant photographs of Deidre Pujols’ many trips to meet and cook with the women of the Dominican. It also provides recipes for the delicious and hearty recipes Deidre learned to make from Dominican women who inspired her on her trips.
- Albert wasn't bluffing when he threatened to sue former All-Star Jack Clark for calling him "a juicer" on St. Louis airwaves on August 2, 2013. On October 4, 2013, in St. Louis County Circuit Court, Pujols' legal team officially filed a defamation lawsuit against Clark.
In the suit, Pujols asks for unspecified damages that would be donated to charity and a determination that Clark's statements are false. The petition calls Clark's on-air comments "malicious, reckless and outrageous falsehoods," and says the Angels first baseman's character and reputation are "impeccable and beyond reproach, while calling Clark "a struggling radio talk show host."
On Aug. 2, while hosting the now-defunct "The King and the Ripper Show" on WGNU 920 AM in St. Louis, Clark said he knew "for a fact" that Pujols used steroids because Pujols' former trainer and junior college coach, Chris Mihlfeld, told the host when the two were together on the Dodgers in 2000 (Clark as hitting coach, Mihlfeld as trainer) that he "shot [Pujols] up."
Mihlfeld denied those allegations in a written statement a week later, saying he would "bet my life" that Pujols would "never use illegal drugs in any way." Shortly thereafter, Pujols issued his own statement, calling Clark's comments "irresponsible and reckless" and saying he's "going to send a message that you cannot act in a reckless manner, like they have, and get away with it."
Pujols' lawsuit does not name the radio station as a defendant. Clark and his co-host, Kevin Slaten, were dismissed shortly after Pujols' statement—seven shows into their tenure—and the station has issued a handful of apologies since, most recently on air.
- February 11, 2014: Albert Pujols dropped the defamation lawsuit against Jack Clark after Clark issued a statement retracting his previous comments alleging that Pujols had used performance-enhancing drugs.
- 2014 Tony LaRussa comments about Albert:
Asked what jumps out to him most about his former lynchpin, the Hall of Fame manager and current Major League Baseball executive recalls all those 0-for-4 days when Pujols was on the top step cheering for his teammates or when he would sacrifice himself to move a runner over while chasing a batting title. To La Russa, the Cardinals' skipper from 1996 to 2011, those moments captured the essence of Pujols, because "from the first time he got to the Major Leagues until right now, he has been the consummate competitor, teammate."
"I say that," La Russa cautioned, "and I don't think enough people will understand."
So he tries again.
"He plays like the old days. You know, when your values were simple. You played as hard as you could for your team, you took pride in what the team did and then you got fame and fortune. Guys are so distracted now. Albert has never been distracted and has been tempted to many, many times, because he's had a great, great career." (April, 2014)
- April 22, 2014: Pujols homered twice in the Angels' 7-2 victory over the Nationals, becoming the 26th member of the 500-home run club and the first player to hit Nos. 499 and 500 on the very same day, just like he said he would.
"It's pretty special," said Pujols, who wouldn't talk openly about his pursuit of 500 homers until it actually happened. "To have almost 18,000 players wear a big league uniform, and to have only 26 players do this, it's pretty special. At the end, I give all the glory and all the credit to the Lord, because without him, I wouldn't be here. And my family, which supports me through good times and bad times."
Tom Sherrill, a 29-year-old Air Force staff sergeant originally from Pomona, Calif., began the evening sitting down the left-field line. And even though Pujols' first-inning homer -- career No. 499 -- went in that direction, something told Sherrill to move toward center field before Pujols batted in the fifth.
"When I saw Albert was going to come up, we kind of finagled our way over toward left-center," he said. "Just a hunch, I guess. It worked out."
Sherrill wound up with the ball, which he gave back to Pujols without hesitation, asking nothing in return but receiving a new Angels hat and a signed ball, with more items likely to come.
"I'm happy with whatever they decide to give me, if anything," said Sherrill, who was in town to participate in some Air Force training in the area.
August 17, 2014: Angels infield coach Alfredo Griffin knows Albert Pujols isn't healthy. He knows the left foot, the one stricken by plantar fasciitis in an injury-shortened 2013 season, isn't 100 percent and never will be -- even if the veteran first baseman won't say anything about it.
"He's not going to tell you it hurts him; he won't tell anybody," Griffin said in Spanish. "But he can't fool me."
In Griffin's mind, that's what makes Pujols' defensive work this season all the more impressive.
One year after spending 65 of his 99 games at designated hitter, Pujols is back to playing elite-level defense at first base, leading American Leaguers at his position in Ultimate Zone Rating while ranking second in Defensive Runs Saved and fielding percentage as of late August, 2014.
He doesn't play off the bag as much as he used to, and he doesn't cover as much ground, but he's making a case for his third Gold Glove nonetheless.
"That's why I respect him so much and I give him so much praise," Griffin said, "for the courage that he has."
"It's hard to take him out of the game," Griffin said. "He doesn't want to come out, he doesn't want a day off, he doesn't want to DH. He wants to play every day. He has a lot of pride, and that's very valuable in this game. Some people who make a lot of money don't think like that. But the money doesn't matter to him. He loves to play." (Alden Gonzalez - MLB.com - 8/17/2014)
September 6, 2014: Albert Pujols has a giant trophy room in the basement of his house in St. Louis, a prodigious collection of mementos he once thought about transplanting to his place in Southern California before realizing it probably wasn't worth the trouble. "I can't do it, man," Pujols said. "It's too much."
2015: Pujols' 9-year-old daughter, Sophia, is aiming for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo in gymnastics. In February she showed that she's well on her way to competing for that gold medal by placing first in a meet in St. Louis. Pujols says he'll retire if his daughter qualifies for the 2020 Olympics.
August 17, 1999: Albert was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round, out of Maple Woods Community College in Missouri.
February 19, 2004: Pujols signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Cardinals, which keeps him in St. Louis through 2010 and pays him through 2029. The Cardinals carried a $16 million option for 2011, or they may exercise a $5 million buyout accounting for the final piece of Pujols's guaranteed $100 million. And on October 5, 2010, St. Louis picked up Albert's 2011 option for $16 million.
"I'm pretty sure people think, 'What can I do with that money?'" Pujols said. "But it's not my money. It's money that I have borrowed from God. And He has let me use it. Whatever He wants me to do with it, that's what I'm going to do. Right now, it's not about the money. It's about myself, getting ready for the 2004 season and about the team. If you play this game and don't win a championship, it doesn't matter how much money you make."
December 8, 2011: Pujols and the Angels agreed on a 10-year deal worth at least $250 million. The contract includes a full no-trade clause. Albert has a full no-trade clause and will be paid a base salary of $240 million through the 10 years of what is a heavily backloaded player contract. As previously reported, that contract will pay him $12 million in 2012, $16 million in 2013, and $23 million in 2014, then increase by $1 million each season until reaching $30 million in 2021.
He can also reach up to $875,000 in incentives each season. As BizOfBaseball.com details, he'll earn $500,000 for winning the American League's Most Valuable Player award, $75,000 for finishing second or third in MVP voting, $75,000 for a Gold Glove award, $75,000 for a Silver Slugger, $50,000 for making the All-Star team, $100,000 for being World Series MVP, and $75,000 for a League Championship Series MVP.
The marketing deal: Pujols, 31, will be paid $3 million for accumulating 3,000 hits (he's currently at 2,073) and $7 million for a record 763 home runs (he has 445).
Since it's bonus money to account for the marketability of those milestones, that money will not go against the luxury tax ceiling, according to reports.
The post-retirement deal: As previously outlined, Pujols' contract also includes a 10-year personal service agreement that kicks in either after the contract expires or after Pujols retires.
In it, Pujols will be paid $10 million ($1 million a year) and will serve, among other things, as a consultant to owner Arte Moreno. Details of what that role will entail are still pretty foggy, but according to The Los Angeles Times, Pujols can back out of that agreement at any time.
Because it comes as post-retirement work, the $10 million of that deal also will not count towards the luxury tax. The Major League Baseball Players Association values the contract at exactly $246,841,111, according to the LA Times, making it the third largest in history.
Other perks: Pujols will have four season tickets to Angels home games over the next decade and can purchase the same seats after he retires—though, according to The Associated Press, the location of those seats has not been determined. In addition, he'll have a hotel suite on road trips and the Angels will provide the Pujols Foundation with a luxury suite at Angel Stadium for 10 home games a year. Pujols also has the right to buy a luxury suite between first and third base for all home games.
A "charitable provision" in the deal will have Pujols contributing at least $100,000 annually to the Angels Baseball Foundation, with half being distributed at the direction of Pujols and half at the direction of the team, according to BizOfBaseball.com.
- Albert's righthanded swing does not vary and has no flaws. It is simple and has had all the nonessentials removed. The great cut has been embedded in his muscle memory, enabling him to take this superb stroke over and over again. He can take that same approach for nearly 700 at-bats in a season.
- In September 2005, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told Buzz Bissinger, author of Three Nights in August, his opinion on what makes Albert Pujols so great:
"It's a combination," La Russa said. "His physical skills are exceptional. His technical skills are outstanding. He is as intelligent as you can be about eating, about working out, about understanding his swing. He remembers at-bats going back years. He has terrific courage at the plate, and this relentless desire to be part of a winning team."
- LaRussa added this about Pujols's calm under pressure: "I think a lot of it is strength of mind and character."
- Albert knows exactly what type of approach he is going to take against the pitcher before going to the plate. If a pitcher makes a pitch Albert is not looking for, he'll lay off of it.
- Pujols makes the pitcher throw strikes. He doesn't give away any at-bats. He's an excellent two-strike hitter.
- Albert hits a lot of home runs because he can drive the ball the other way. He has excellent plate discipline, knowing the strike zone. It is that power combined with discipline that impresses scouts.
Pujols does not like the description "power hitter."
"I'm a line-drive hitter with power," Pujols corrects. "I can drive the ball into the gap, and I'm strong enough to hit it out of the park if I elevate it. No matter how people describe me, it's about staying focused. Don't worry about what people write or say. I don't play for those people. I play to try to get better."
- Pujols' head never jumps or moves. His feet are well-balanced. He thinks at the plate; he is not a wild swinger.
Albert distributes about 60 percent of his weight onto his back foot. He brings his hands level with his right ear and flaps his right elbow three or four times, keeping his bat upright.
Pujols does those flaps to relax both his body and his hands. "I don't want to be too stiff, because then my hands won't be as quick," Albert said.
He does not stride when he swings. His front foot curls inward so that he stands pigeon-toed at the point of impactï¿½driving himself instead with his hips. "I'm trying to slow my body down and slow my swing down, use my hands and trust my hands," he says. "I just trust my hands and leave it nice and quiet." (2006)
- With his fine bat speed, you can't get a fastball by him. That great bat speed allows Pujols to wait on a pitch longer before he has to identify it.
Albert is an intelligent hitter. He doesn't try to hit home runs, because he knows they will come if he hits the ball well.
When a pitcher makes a mistake, Albert takes advantage of it. There is no one way to pitch him. You pitch him away, and he hits it out to right field. If they pitch him in, he pulls the ball with power. He's a good hitter. You can't get him out the same way twice.
TREMENDOUS ROOKIE YEAR
In 2001, Pujols hit righthanded pitchers for a .342 average and lefties at a .279 pace.
In April 2001, his eight home runs in the month tied the Major League rookie record, also held by Kent Hrbek (1982) and Carlos Delgado (1994).
- In 2001, Pujols had one of the best offensive seasons ever by a rookie. He set the all-time record for most RBI by a rookie. (Wally Berger of the Reds held the old mark of 119, set in 1930).
A strong case can be made that Pujols had the best offensive season of any rookie in Major League history.
- In 2001, Albert's home run total (37) was one short of the all-time rookie record set by Wally Berger of the Boston Braves in 1930 and matched by Cincinnati's Frank Robinson in 1956.
- He was the unanimous choice for 2001 NL Rookie of the Year.
NOT A BAD SECOND AND THIRD YEAR
- Albert is not a guess hitter. He is a contact hitter who rarely strikes out. He puts the ball in play. He sees what the pitcher is trying to do and works his game accordingly. Pujols can take a 95-mph fastball and turn it around, or take a down-and-away slider and hit it out of the ballpark the other way. He takes the art of hitting very seriously, using the entire field as part of his offensive plan.
Hours before a game he puts himself through a series of tee drills handed him by Alex Rodriguez. The Rangers shortstop is recognized as one of the game's best at hitting with equal authority to all fields. It has likewise become Pujols's signature. Asked to disclose the exercises, Pujols waves off the question, offended his practice has leaked. "I can't give away my secrets, man," he says politely but firmly.
- Against lefthanders, Pujols hits with a 33-oz. bat, an ounce heavier than the one he uses against righthanders, to keep him from always trying to pull the ball.
- The most impressive thing about Pujols may be his awareness of where his bat head is. He gets it on almost every pitch he hits.
- Albert works hard in the cage and stretching, so that his muscles work harmoniously to bring an explosion into his strong wrists on contact. The wrists absorb all his body's energy, becoming the punctuation on his swing.
- It is the reality of life (and baseball), that your mind tends to best understand the puzzle at an age when your body is least equipped to put it together. But Albert understands the puzzle at a very young age. That is why, when he makes contact, the sound is different than any other in baseball.
- In 2003, Pujols won a second Silver Slugger award, recognizing him as the best offensive player at his position. The first was awarded to him in 2001 for his skill as a third baseman.
In 2004, a third Silver Slugger recognized him as the best first baseman in the National League. He was awarded the same in 2008.
"Every pitch, I make an adjustment if I have to," Albert said. "This game is about being ready physically and mentally and at the same time you need to be sure to make your adjustment because if you don't, the league is going to get you. I am ready to make an adjustment every at-bat, and you have to. If they throw a pitch inside and get you out believe me, they are going to go again and you want to make sure that you are ready to hit that pitch.
"I don't do too much with my body or my hands. When I struggle, I get a little slowness because my shoulders fly open. One of the things that I look at as a hitter is to make sure that my shoulder is not flying open, like Tony Gwynn used to say, 'chicken wing.' I want to make sure I stay inside the ball. Then my hands and my lower body are going to take care [of themselves] because I don't have too much movement in my upper body and my lower body." (ESPN's Peter Gammons-Baseball America-4/04)
In 2004, Albert had 99 extra-base hits, just four shy of Stan Musial's Cardinal franchise record (103) set in 1948. And Pujols led the Major Leagues in runs (133) and was second to Barry Bonds in slugging percentage (.657).
Albert is not a happy lad when he strikes out. It makes no difference if it is a called third strike or a swing-and-miss, he has a nearly pathological distates for striking out.
"I get pissed when I strike out," Pujols said. "I get mad. At least if you put the ball in play, a guy can make an error and you give your teammates a chance to drive you in."
On April 29, 2006, Albert set the Major League record with his 14th home run in April. Ken Griffey, Jr. (1997) and Luis Gonzalez (2001) held the old mark of 13.
Albert has a weakness at the plate: down and in. But almost every pitcher in the game is afraid to throw it down and in because if you miss, the ball will be leaving the park.
July 4, 2008: Pujols hit his 300th home run.
As of the start of the 2013 season: In each of Albert's first twelve straight seasons in the Major Leagues, Pujols has hit at least 30 homers. He is the first player to do that in his first 12 seasons. And he is the fourth to hit 30-plus homers in a run of 12 straight seasons at any point in his career, joining Barry Bonds (13 straight, from 1992 to 2004), Alex Rodriguez (13 straight from 1998 to 2010) and Jimmie Foxx (12 straight, from 1929-40).
Pujols entered the 2012 season with a career slash line of .328/.420/.617. The numbers -- quite gaudy when viewed from just about any angle -- made the right-handed slugger one of six players in baseball history to have at least 3,000 plate appearances and a .300/.400/.600 slash line through his first 11 seasons. The other five are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and Ted Williams.
Pujols uses two different sized bats.
"I swing a 34.5-inch, 32-ounce bat against lefthanded pitchers, and a 34-inch, 32-ounce bat against righthanders. I like a little more legth against lefties because they like to go outside and throw me more off-speed pitches," Albert said. (May 2010)
Albert explained: "Once I get two strikes on me in a count, I make my stance a little wider. It's all about balance, all the time. You want to have 60 percent of your weight on your back leg and 40 percent on your front leg.
"Like a boxer in fighting, you need to get your power from you legs," Pujols continued. "As I finish a swing, the bat head starts to come through the hitting zone. Now my front leg is bent just a little bit, and very importantly, my back leg is dug in and shaped like an 'L.'" (Mike McCormick-MLB Properties-May, 2010)
Backspin is a huge key for Pujols: "How do I create backspin? Everything comes from the bottom hand. Everybody thinks, Top hand, top hand. If it's top hand, look at this...."
He swings down on the ball, hitting it above its equator, and the ball quickly bites into the ground and bounces away.
OTHERS MAY HAVE HIT FOR A HIGHER AVERAGE OR MORE POWER, BUT NO ONE HAS BEEN MORE ACCOMPLISHED AT THIS AGE AT THE ENTIRE DISCIPLINE OF HITTING.
"Pulling the bottom hand through the baseball.... Every time you see a perfect swing, the top hand almost looks like it's underneath your bat [at contact]. It's the bottom hand. All the time. That's where backspin comes from. Get your hands inside the ball and let your hands work."
Pujols's swing is a technical wonder, a kinetic event that causes the most mayhem with the least effort. But if you had to reduce it to its most astonishing element, it would be this: He brings his hands to the baseball faster and more directly than perhaps any other man who has ever lived. (Tom Verducci-Sports Illustrated-3/26/12)
May 18, 2014: Pujols added two home runs to his assault on baseball history. Nos. 503 and 504 in his career moved him into a tie with Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray for 25th on the Major League all-time list.
Pujols' seventh-inning home run on July 9th lifted the Angels to an 8-7 win but also moved him up the all-time home run list. The two-run smash to center was Pujols' 512th career homer, tying him for 21st all-time with Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews, and his 20th of the season.
"You start to hear the guys that are really the all-time greats in the game that he's right there with," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think Albert's playing this game for the right reasons. He's not playing it to catch the next guy on the home run list, he's not playing it for anything but helping us win and that's why he's so much fun to be around and has so much respect, not only in this clubhouse but in the whole game of baseball."
It is the first time since 2010 that Pujols has reached 20 home runs before the All-Star break. The home run was Pujols' 31st career go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later. It was his third with the Angels.
"At the end of my career, that's when I'm going to look back and see what I've done," Pujols said. "It's hard for me to get caught up because I'm not a guy that gets caught up with numbers. I respect this game too much and I believe if you try to get caught up too much with that, you forget what you're supposed to do and that's to help this organization to win a championship." (DeFranks - mlb.com - 7/9/14)
September 6, 2014: Pujols reach 2,500 career hits and 1,500 career runs in the Angels' 8-5 win over the Twins at Target Field. Pujols' third-inning solo homer -- his 25th on the year -- made him the 70th member of the 1,500-runs club. His ninth-inning two-run double -- giving him 87 RBIs on the season -- made him the 98th member of the 2,500-hits club.
Pujols entered the 2015 season with a career batting average of .317, with 520 home runs, and 1,603 RBI in 7,943 at bats in the Majors.