This was no whirlwind romance, though. Deidre was a single mother at the time but had since come to know and love Christ. One of the first things she did was invite Albert to church. She said she didn’t want the relationship to go any further until she knew Albert would put God above everything else.

Two weeks later, Albert gave his life to Christ.

“I wanted to get a man who was going to be on my page. I needed an encourager, not somebody that would take me back to my (old) lifestyle,” Deidre said.

The couple married Jan. 1, 2000. They now have three children, the oldest of which, Isabella, has Down Syndrome. Albert and Deidre established the Pujols Family Foundation in 2005, which “is dedicated to the love, care and development of people with Down Syndrome and their families,” according to the foundation’s Web site. The foundation also helps impoverished families in the Dominican Republic.

The Cardinals won the 2006 World Series with an unlikely run through the playoffs. Pujols was a big part of the championship, of course, hitting .331 with 49 home runs and 137 RBIs.

Six months later, Pujols and his teammates found themselves in the deepest of valleys. Already struggling on the field, the Cards suffered a heart-rending loss when relief pitcher Josh Hancock was killed in a car wreck on April 29.

It reminded Pujols of the preciousness of life.

“It’s one of the things you look at and say, ‘Hey, God’s the only one that offers us eternal life.’ We want to make sure that we do have eternal life, so we can see each other in heaven,” Pujols said.

As one can imagine, being a superstar athlete brings with it myriad and countless temptations, such as being angry at God for what happened to Hancock. Pujols’ spiritual equilibrium stays in kilter thanks to his wife, yes, but also his family away from St. Louis – his teammates.

Several Cardinals, including Braden Looper, So Taguchi and Adam Wainwright, are professing Christians. The group holds a Bible study every Tuesday.

“Every year we lose a couple of strong Christian guys. It seems like it doesn’t affect us every year, because every year there’s like three or four guys that come in, and they’re strong believers,” Pujols said.

“You know God’s got your back, but you also have to have people that pray for you. And I have so many people, and my teammates, that pray for me. It’s just a beautiful relationship, not just as a professional player, but spiritually.”

The kind of support he gets from his teammates is one reason Pujols has been bolder in proclaiming his faith. He’s come to learn that with so many people behind him, and of course with God behind him, there’s no reason for him not to stand up in front of thousands of people and remind them that while others might treat him like a god, his purpose is to serve the true God.

“Every time I reach base or step on the plate,” he told the Christian Family Day crowd of 9,000-plus, “I remind myself it’s not about Albert Pujols, it’s about Jesus Christ.”

Observing her husband’s newfound courage, Deidre said, “Albert’s come a long way.”

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