Childhood & Early Life
Albert Pujols was born on January 16, 1980, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, located on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean region. He was the only child of his parents. His father was a softball pitcher, who later turned alcoholic. Thus, he was brought up by his grandmother, uncles, and aunts.
As a child, he played baseball with the other children in the neighborhood, using an improvised kit. His family immigrated to the US in 1996 and started living in New York City. Later, they moved to Independence, Missouri, to live with their relatives.
He graduated from the ‘Fort Osage High School,’ Independence, in 1998. He played baseball for his school team and was named and ‘All-State’ athlete twice. He joined the ‘Maple Woods Community College’ on a baseball scholarship. He played “shortstop” for his college team and batted .461, with 22 home runs, before making it to the ‘MLB’ draft.
There was immense controversy about his age, due to which no team was willing to recruit him initially. Thus, he began playing in minor league. In 2000, he played as “third base” for the ‘Peoria Chiefs’ in the ‘Midwest League.’ He was named the league’s ‘MVP’ and was part of the ‘All-Star’ team.
He also played for the ‘Potomac Cannons’ and the ‘Memphis Redbirds’ in the ‘Carolina League’ and the ‘Pacific Coast League’ (PCL), respectively. He was voted the ‘MVP’ of the ‘Redbirds,’ which won its first ‘PCL’ title with him.
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In 2001, Pujols was promoted to senior league and was to play for the ‘St. Louis Cardinals.’ He was the first ‘Cardinal’ rookie to have made it to the ‘All-Star’ game, since Luis Arroyo in 1955, and was unanimously voted as the ‘Rookie of the Year’ in the ‘NL.’ He was also declared the winner of the ‘NL Silver Slugger Award’ for the “third base” position.
By the end of the following season, he became the first major league player to have hit .300, with more than 30 home runs, in his first two seasons. His team advanced to the 2002 ‘NL Championship Series’ (NLCS) but lost to the ‘San Francisco Giants.’
He hit his 100th home run in a victory against the ‘Dodgers’ in July 2003. This was closely followed by his 114th home run in September the same year, which had him tied with Ralph Kiner for the feat of achieving the most home runs scored by a player in his first three seasons. He became the youngest player to have won the ‘NL’ batting title. The same year, he won his second ‘Silver Slugger Award’ and his first ‘Sporting News Player of the Year Award.’
In 2004, he signed a US$100-million extension contract for seven years with the ‘St. Louis Cardinals,’ with a US$ 16-million option for 2011. In the first year of his new contract, he became the first player to achieve 500 RBIs in the first four years of his career. Despite being diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, he continued playing and improved his game to win the ‘Silver Slugger Award’ at “first base” that year.
His team advanced to the ‘World Series’ for the first time since 1987, and Pujols was named the ‘MVP’ of the ‘NLCS’ in 2005. He hit his 200th home run that season to become the third-youngest and the second-fastest major league player to reach the landmark.
He started his 2006 season by hitting home runs in four consecutive plate appearances making him the 20th player to have achieved the feat. He had to keep out of the game for three weeks in June that year due to injury. He played the rest of the season and won his first ‘Fielding Bible Award’ for the “first base” position that season. The ‘Cardinals’ went on to win the ‘World Series’ and Pujols received his first ‘World Series’ ring.
By the end of 2008, he had won his second ‘NL MVP’ award. He also won his fourth ‘Silver Slugger Award’ and was named the ‘Sporting News Player of the Year’ for the second time. He was also awarded the ‘Roberto Clemente Award’ for displaying sportsmanship in the game.
He hit his 1000th career RBI in a victory over the ‘Cubs’ in 2009 and received the maximum number of votes in the history of ‘NL’ for the ‘All-Star’ game that year. He was the ‘NL MVP’ for the third time and won the ‘Fielding Bible Award’ for the fourth consecutive time. He also became the third-youngest player to have hit 400 career home runs.
Pojols rejected a US$ 210-million extension deal of 10 years with the ‘Cardinals’ and signed a US$ 254-million deal for the same period with the ‘Los Angeles Angels’ in 2012. It initially took him some time to get into form with the ‘Angels,’ but once his game was settled, he began hitting hard and turned himself into a valuable member of the team.
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He had a poor season in 2013 but regained his form to hit his 500th career home run against the ‘Washington Nationals’ in April 2014. He became the third-youngest and 26th player to have reached the milestone. At the end of the season, he played for the ‘MLB All-Stars’ in the 2014 ‘MLB All-Star Series’ in Japan.
Though his performance has had frequent dips, Pujols continues to play for the ‘Angles’ to date and is a strong contender for the ‘Hall of Fame.’ He has had 11,000 plate appearances in his career and is the ninth player to cross the 600-home run mark.
Awards & Achievements
He has won two ‘World Series’ championships, three ‘NLs,’ one ‘NL Batting Championship,’ and one ‘PCL Championship.’
He was the ‘NL Rookie of the Year’ in 2001 and has also been the ‘NL MVP’ thrice.
He has been the ‘MLB Player of the Week’ twelve times, the ‘MLB Player of the Month’ seven times, and the ‘MLB All-Star’ ten times.
Albert Pujols has established various records and has won several other awards, such as the ‘Sporting News Player of the Decade’ and the ‘Sports Illustrated Player of the Decade’ (2000–2009).
He married Deidre in January 2000. Deidre has a daughter, Isabella, from her previous relationship. They live with Isabella and four children of their own, Albert Jr., Sophia, Ezra, and Esther Grace, in St. Louis during the off season.
He supports initiatives to help children with Down syndrome, as Isabella suffers from the same condition. In 2005, he launched the ‘Pujols Family Foundation,’ which creates awareness about Down syndrome and aids the poor in the Dominican Republic. The foundation hosts an annual golf tournament to raise funds.
He became a US citizen in 2007 but maintains close ties with his motherland. He has made several trips to the Dominican Republic to provide medical aid and assistance to the poor and the disabled.
His family opened a restaurant, known as ‘Westport Grill,’ in Westport Plaza, Maryland Heights, Missouri. He changed its name to ‘St Louis. Sports Hall of Fame Grill’ after he joined the ‘Angels.’ An anonymous donor has installed a 10-foot statue of Pujols outside the restaurant.
Pujols has had his share of injuries in the game. He once had to consider undergoing the ‘Tommy John’ surgery, which involves ligament reconstruction. However, he underwent a nerve transposition surgery on his right elbow instead. He also had to undergo a surgery to remove five bone spurs from his right elbow.
He was accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs, by his former teammate, Jack Clark. However, Clark apologized after Pujols filed a case of defamation against him.