Spotlight Gives Pujols Opportunity to Shine for Christ
- Tuesday, July 10, 2007
ST. LOUIS -- Bart Millard, lead singer for Mercy Me, was performing at the St. Louis Cardinals’ Christian Family Day on June 23 when he noticed someone watching him closely.
It was Albert Pujols, the star slugger and 2005 National League MVP, tapping his foot and singing along.
“I had to shut my eyes. I was looking at him going, ‘Oh gosh, don’t forget the words,’” Millard said after the event at Busch Stadium. “I’m pretty star-struck around baseball players.”
It’s hard to blame him, especially when it’s Pujols watching. Through July 2, the 27-year-old first baseman is hitting .330 with 266 home runs over the first six-plus seasons of his already brilliant career and has become a Gold Glove-caliber fielder.
Millard said he considers Pujols “one of the greatest ever,” and he’s hardly alone in that opinion.
But Millard didn’t really need to be nervous. Pujols has been called Prince Albert, Phat Albert and the Great Pujols, but unlike most people, Jose Alberto Pujols doesn’t buy into all that hype.
Pujols on Pujols:
“Just because I’ve got God in my heart and I’m a great baseball player, that doesn’t mean that I’m perfect. I’m just a human person just like everybody else here, and I make mistakes. Only God was perfect. He’s obviously using me by giving me this platform so I can honor Him and get to know more people and just share the gospel with those who need.”
OK, so he certainly sounds humble.
Pujols spoke those words after the Christian Family Day event concluded, and after posing for several photographs and signing dozens of autographs. The Cardinals had defeated Philadelphia 8-3 earlier that day, with Pujols going 1-for-2 and scoring two runs.
It had been a long, hot day for Pujols. Yet he found the time to grant a seven-minute interview to a reporter from Tupelo, Miss. Once shy with the media because of the language barrier, the Dominican was downright loquacious.
At interview’s end, he shook the reporter’s hand and held on for a moment to ask a couple of questions of his own.
OK, so he acts humble, too. It’s not just an act, though.
Evangelist Tony Nolan, who was the keynote speaker on this day, has gotten to know Pujols in recent months.
“One of the things I’m learning about Albert is that he is off the field what he is on the field. That’s huge,” Nolan said. “When he gives God the glory, that’s large, man.”
Pujols has never had a problem showing his gratitude to God. He points to the sky at the end of every home run trot, and he’s been very generous with his time and money for Christian causes.
Speaking about his faith, though, has been another story. Even though he’s been in America a long time – he went to high school in Independence, Mo. – it took him years to feel comfortable addressing crowds.
“He can play in front of 40 million people, but speaking in front of all of them, he really gets nervous,” said his wife, Deidre.
Albert and Deidre have been involved in the last seven Christian Family Days in St. Louis. In the past, Pujols would simply come out and wave to the crowd.
This year, he spoke for a few minutes, giving his testimony.
“I came to a point about five years ago,” Pujols said, “I’m like, you know what, it’s not about Albert Pujols, it’s not about being scared, it’s about honoring and serving God. I’m going to go out there and give my testimony and speak because that’s what the people want to hear.”
In 1998, Pujols was an 18-year-old senior in high school when he met Deidre. He’d lied his way into a salsa club, and told Deidre, who was old enough to be there, that he was 21.
“I didn’t care,” Deidre said. “We went out to dinner the first night, and we’ve been in love ever since.”
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