When asked about his future while appearing as a guest last month on the “Get in the Game” podcast with Scott Linebrink, future Hall of Fame first baseman Albert Pujols said he was leaving it in God’s hands.
“I think I’m going to enjoy this year and see where God is taking me and then go from there,” he said.
At the time, Pujols was figuring he’d play out his contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The organization, however, had different plans when it released him May 6.
As it turns out, he’s not going very far. Pujols has agreed to sign with the defending World Series-champion Los Angeles Dodgers to finish the 2021 regular season. The deal became official on Monday.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 18, 2021
Pujols, who is 41 years old, has not said whether he’ll play past this season, but it won’t be long after he retires that he’ll be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
After playing just one season in the minor leagues, he burst onto the scene by being named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2001. Since then, he’s won two World Series championships while playing with the St. Louis Cardinals and has been named to 10 All-Star games. He won the NL Most Valuable Player award three times, the Gold Glove award twice, and was twice the NL home run leader.
He’s won six Silver Slugger awards, five Fielding Bible awards and has twice been named the Hank Aaron award winner, given annually to the league’s top hitter. His 667 career home runs are fifth all-time and he’s totaled 3,253 hits thus far.
On the podcast, Pujols put his on-field success in perspective when looking through the lens of his faith in God.
“Fame and success came really, really quick to me, but I think one thing that kept me humble was my relationship with God — knowing that I’d never forget where I was coming from,” he said. “Knowing that through Him, I was able to serve others and to care about others and not about myself. It’s beautiful. It’s been a beautiful journey.”
Pujols came to know the Lord early on in his relationship with his wife, Deidre, who invited him to church. He took notice when there was an altar call and wanted to know what people were doing when they went to the front of the church.
“She explained to me a little bit what it was and, for me, it was really whether I want to go to hell or Heaven,” Pujols said. “She put it as easy as that. Well, I don’t want to go to hell.”
It only took about four weeks before he was ready to give his life to the Lord.
“It wasn’t until I got to the big leagues in 2001 that I really learned that being around guys like Mike Matheny, Woody Williams, J.D. Drew — strong, solid Christian believers — that I was like, ‘Yeah, I call myself a Christian,’ but I wasn’t living it.”
That hit him hard as well when, later that season, he was asked to give his testimony during a Christian Family Day event at Busch Stadium. He said he wasn’t sure what to even talk about, so that moment prompted him to get more serious about getting in the Word and making his relationship with God a priority.
“At the end of the day, that’s more important than anything I’ve accomplished in my life,” Pujols said.
Throughout his 21-year MLB career, Pujols has used his platform to share his faith, and since 2005 he and Deidre have operated the Pujols Family Foundation, a non-profit “that exists to honor God and strengthen families through works, deeds and examples,” according to its website. His oldest daughter, Isabella, has Down syndrome.
In 2008, Pujols was named the Roberto Clemente award winner, given annually to a player who “demonstrates the values Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others.”
There are still a few on-field milestones Pujols could possibly reach. He’s close to 700 career home runs, and such a mark would put him in fourth place all-time, ahead of Alex Rodriguez, who has 696. He’s also 114 games shy of reaching 3,000 games played for his career, a number only eight other players have reached.
Pujols hopes to be remembered for more than his on-field accomplishments, though. He wants be remembered as “a strong Christian guy that served the Lord first and the community, and honored God,” he said.
“Because the success that I’ve had on the field is because of the talent and the ability God has given me,” Pujols said. “I knew that the talent that I had and I knew the ability that I had, but at the end of the day, I put a lot of hard work into it. But because of that, I’m able to make the money that I’m making now and be able to help that I wouldn’t have ever been able to if it weren’t for the Lord.”
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