By Rudee Becerra —
Albert Pujols, a pitcher’s enduring nightmare, is about to join Major League Baseball’s elite 3,000 hits club, but the greatest motivator for Pujols is his relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Believe it or not, baseball is not the chief ambition of my life,” the 38-year-old heavy hitter says on his website. “Becoming a great baseball player is important to me, but it is not my primary focus. Because I know the Hall of Fame is not my ultimate final destination. My life’s goal is to bring glory to Jesus. My life is not mostly dedicated to the Lord, it is 100% committed to Jesus Christ and His will.”
Pujols (pronounced Poo-hols) grew up in the Dominican Republic. A child of divorce and the son of an alcoholic father, he was raised mostly by his grandmother and uncles. He was so poor that as a kid he used unripe limes for balls and milk cartons mitts to play baseball.
The American sport was an outlet — and an American opportunity.
After his grandmother and father immigrated with him to the U.S., Pujols played for Maple Woods Community College for one year. That’s when the St. Louis Cardinals picked him up. After one year in the minor league, Pujols was promoted to the majors in 2001.
Within four days of the season’s start, he recorded 3 RBIs and one home run. By season’s end, he was named Rookie of the Year and averaged .300 with 30 home runs, leading the Cardinals into the playoffs.
The 9-time All Star became one of baseball’s most feared sluggers known for guessing what pitch comes next.
After 11 seasons of consistently slamming balls to the fence for the Cardinals, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2010 for a 10-year $210 million contract. Baseball buffs predicted the cash splash would bust. He was getting older and wouldn’t produce as he had in his younger years, they complained.
But they underestimated his “maniacal” dedication. He practiced obsessively and continued to whack the ball consistently.
“The one thing that is very understated about Albert is the sense of how hard he actually works at hitting, the studying of the pitchers, the actual time he spends in the cage,” former teammate David Eckstein tells the L.A. Times. “When the best player on your team is the hardest worker, it helps the club win.”
If he gets just four more hits, Pujols will become the 32nd major leaguer to reach 3,000 hits in MLB. He will rank with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez with those hits and 600 home runs. He’s also snagged two Gold Gloves and a Sports Illustrated Player of the Decade award.
If the U.S. gave Pujols fame, it also gave him something greater. In America, Pujols found Jesus, thanks to the love of his life Diedre, whom he met in 1998 and married two years later.
“I believed something was missing in my heart,” he says on a YouTube video. “In 1998 I decided to walk with Christ. I don’t just represent (a baseball club), I represent Christ. That’s the most important thing in my life. If you don’t know Christ, let Him take control of your life. God is always there for us. He loves us no matter what.”
Together, the couple has five children. Isabella, born to Deidre from a previous relationship, has Down syndrome. In 2005, they launched the Pujols Family Foundation to promote awareness of Down syndrome and aid the poor in the Dominican Republic.
Pujols travels frequently to the Dominican Republic, taking teams of doctors and dentists to realize medical clinics for the poor.
Of course, Pujols is passionate about baseball, but in some ways he’s unaffected by the accolades.
“My most exciting moment came when I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life,” he told Baptist Press. “If it weren’t for Jesus, I would not be where I am today and my life would be without purpose.”
While fans stand in awe of his celebrity status, Pujols redirects their attention elsewhere.
“The kids look at me, ‘Ah, you’re my hero,’’ he told CBN. “I want to teach those kids. ‘Hey listen, God is my hero. He died on the cross for my sins, and He’s the one.’ That’s how I wanna live — like Him and I want you guys to do the same thing.”
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
Rudee Becerra studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.