Professional baseball player
Born Jose Albert Pujols, January 16, 1980; son of Bienvenido Pujols (a minor league pitcher); married Deidre (a secretary), January 1, 2000; children: Isabella (stepdaughter), A.J. (Albert Jose). Religion: Born-again Christian. Education: Attended Maple Woods Community College, Kansas City, MO.
Addresses: Office—c/o St. Louis Cardinals, 250 Stadium Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102.
Drafted by St. Louis Cardinals, 1999; played for Class A Peoria Chiefs, A Potomac Cannons, and AAA Memphis Redbirds, 2000; played third base, outfield, and first base for St. Louis Cardinals, 2001—.
Awards: National League Rookie of the Year, 2001; St. Louis Baseball Man of the Year, 2002-05; Most Valuable Player Award, National League Championship Series, 2004; Silver Slugger Award, 2004; two additional Silver Slugger Awards.
Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals at the age of 19, Albert Pujols spent only one full season in the minor leagues before joining the Cardinals' major league roster. The 6'3", 225 lb. baseball player soon proved his worth, emerging as one of St. Louis's most versatile players. A strong hitter who often got on base, Pujols played third base, first base, and two outfield positions for the team. Despite his early success, Pujols remained humble and focused much of his off-field energy on his family.
Born Jose Albert Pujols on January 16, 1980, he is the son of Bienvenido Pujols, who had been a pitcher in the minor leagues in the Dominican Republic. Pujols spent his youth in the Dominican Republic, raised in poverty primarily by his grandmother, named America. He had little contact with his parents, who had divorced when he was very young. When Pujols was about 16 years old, he moved to the United States with his father and other family members. They settled in Independence, Missouri, where a small Dominican community existed and his grandmother already lived. He later studied to become an American citizen.
When Pujols arrived in Missouri, he did not speak English, but picked it up while attending Fort Osage High School. He also played baseball and proved to be a natural at the sport. Pujols played for two years and was named all-state twice. Even as a high school player, he possessed a sense of discipline that would serve him well as a professional player. After high school, Pujols attended Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Missouri, for one season. That year, he posted a .461 batting average on the school's team.
In 1999, Pujols was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round. He was the 402nd overall pick in the draft. Pujols soon signed with the team for $60,000. The Cardinals believed they were putting a good hitter under contract, but had no real idea of the talent they were obtaining. Before the start of Pujols' professional playing career, he married his girlfriend, Deidre, a woman he had been dating since he was 18 years old. She already had a toddler daughter named Isabella who had Down syndrome. The couple became very active in associations related to the disease. They later had a son together named A.J.
Pujols played one season of minor league baseball, in 2000. He spent much of the season with St. Louis's A club, the Peoria Chiefs. Pujols posted a .314 batting average, with 19 homeruns and 96 runs batted in (RBIs). Both he and his wife also worked as waiters at a local country club to help support themselves. Over the course of the season, Pujols moved up, playing for the A Potomac Cannons for 21 games and ended the season with AAA Memphis Redbirds for three games. He also played in the AAA world series.
In 2001, Pujols went to spring training with the Cardinals and though he was expected to spend the season with AAA Memphis, an injury to a teammate opened up a spot for him with the Cardinals. Two of the team's best players, Jim Edmonds and Mark McGwire, were soon injured, and Pujols became a regular player. Though Pujols primarily played third base, the team already had a third baseman and needed outfielders. Thus, he played both right field and left field during the season. He also proved that he was the skilled hitter the team thought he was when they drafted him.
Though no one really knew Pujols, his calm, professional play on the field brought him attention and praise, and not just from his team. With Pujols playing a significant role in the Cardinals' success, the team moved into contention for a wild card playoff berth. Lloyd McClendon, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, told Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, "I've never seen anything like it. He's quick to the ball with his bat, he hits to all fields, he rarely goes outside the strike zone, and no situation seems to rattle him. This young man has a chance to be quite a force for some time in this league."
Pujols finished the year with a .329 batting average, 194 hits, and 37 home runs. He was the most productive offensive player for St. Louis and helped revitalize the team. Because of his success, Pujols was unanimously voted National League Rookie of the Year. Some observers believed that he should have won the National League Most Valuable Player Award. Pujols received a new contract with the Cardinals in the off-season, a one-year deal worth at least $600,000.
Pujols proved his 2001 season was not a fluke from 2002 through 2004. In 2002, he had a batting average of .314, with 185 hits and 34 homeruns. Pujols still led the Cardinals offensively, when other players like Edmonds were injured. Pujols also continued to field where needed, playing both third base and left field again. St. Louis reached the National League Championship series, before losing. Pujols was runner up for the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
The 2003 season showed marked improvement for Pujols. Playing both first base and left field, he went on an offensive tear, with a 30-game hitting streak during the season. His numbers went even higher, with a batting average of .359, with 212 hits and 43 homeruns. He was consistent like the great players in baseball to which he was often compared. William Gildea wrote in the Washington Post, "No player has achieved what Pujols has in the first three years of his major league career. None: not Ruth or Cobb, DiMaggio or Williams, Mays or Mantle, Brett or Gwynn. No one before Pujols amassed at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored, and 100 RBI during each of his first three seasons."
One reason for Pujols' success was his hard work in the off season. He spent a lot of time in batting cages and lifting weights to improve his forearm strength. He also worked on his swing. Such work led to financial rewards. Before the 2004 season, Pujols signed a seven-year contract worth $100 million with the Cardinals. However, the 2004 season was frustrating for Pujols. Throughout the season, he suffered from a painful heel injury—a plantar fascitis—which prevented him from playing his best. He also suffered from elbow problems. Despite these issues, Pujols' season was productive. He still hit on a consistent basis, producing a hit in nearly every game. Pujols had 46 homeruns and 123 RBIs. Pujols also had a new position, first base. He was named the team's first baseman during the season, in part because of his elbow problems.
St. Louis still won their division and then a tough National League Championship series. The Cardinals defeated the Houston Astros in seven games. Pujols had four home runs and a .500 batting average in the series. Though St. Louis made it to World Series, they lost in four straight games to the Boston Red Sox. Pujols still had a .333 batting average, but only five hits and did not play as well as he had earlier in the season.
Though Pujols faced continued problems with his heel in 2005, he was still regarded as a player with unlimited potential. He was only in his midtwenties. Pujols believed that his natural abilities combined with hard work led to his success. He told Jack Etkin of the Rocky Mountain News, "I've been blessed. I don't know how. The main thing is I can read a pitcher. I can make adjustments. People wonder how I'm able to do that. I don't know. I can't explain.... I try to see the ball and have a plan. That's how you become a good hitter, when you tell yourself what's you're doing wrong and correct it the next at-bat."
Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2004, p. D1.
People, October 11, 2004, pp. 81-82.
Rocky Mountain News, September 8, 2003, p. 4H.
San Diego Union-Tribune, October 26, 2004, p. D1.
Sports Illustrated, April 16, 2001, p. 48; October 1, 2001, p. 44; October 25, 2004, p. 48.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 3, 2002, p. D1; June 18, 2002, p. E1; November 3, 2004, p. D2; February 27, 2004, p. D1; October 24, 2004, p. O2; January 18, 2005, p. C1.
Washington Post, August 24, 2003, p. E1.
"Albert Pujols," ESPN.com, http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId-6619 (February 1, 2005).
"Albert Pujols Player Page," SI.com,http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/players/6619/ (February 1, 2005).