One of the biggest news stories in this year's baseball off-season was Albert Pujols. Would he or wouldn't he re-sign with the St. Louis Cardinals? Would he get $30 million per year? Would he sign a new contract before spring training began?
Shortly after all these questions were swirling, I read the recent biography of Pujols by Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth, More than a Game.
Lamb and Ellsworth open with Pujols stepping to the plate in September 2006. Although the Cardinals found themselves in preparing for the playoffs after a long divisional race, Pujols found time to mingle with the Cardinals' special guests that day. Many of them, like Pujols step-daughter, had Downs Syndrome. In a single day, Pujols managed to mingle with these special fans, who look forward to this trip to the ballpark all year. And by the way, he also managed to hit 3 home runs that day as well.
The opening to the book captures the tone quite well. Lamb and Ellsworth weave anecdotes from Pujols' herculean feats on the ball field with the story of his life and faith. Pujols' roots in the Dominican, his lightning quick journey through the Cardinals farm system, and his growth in faith helps set the discussion of Pujols' contract talks in their larger context. Pujols and his wife have start the Pujols Family Foundation, which gives millions each year to assist those with Downs Syndrome. Based on this book, Pujols appears to be the genuine article.
Earlier this summer, I read the biography of Stan Musial, who is probably the only Cardinal ranked ahead of Pujols on the pantheon of baseball greatness. Musial and Pujols share many traits: both were committed family men and both were "religious" by the general public. Because of this, the media considers them boring. However, there is something inspiring about a life committed to excellence, consistency, and devotion. In a culture where far too much attention is given to which athletes are dating which movie stars, Pujols and Musial give us great stories. Only God can know the hearts of these men, but my prayer is that our sons will emulate their devotion to excellence in whatever place they find themselves.
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