Blog Entry

Can't Go Home Again? Albert Says: 'You Gotta!'

Posted on: June 15, 2009 11:09 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2009 10:20 am
So my daughter's magazine arrives this week from Compassion International. She says, "There's some story here about a baseball player named, 'POO-joels.'

I inform her about the particulars of "j" pronounciation options, especially when Español is involved. As a Reds fan I go back to my Hal McCoy article in the morning paper.

But a thought nags at me: what is Albert Pujols doing in a magazine like Compassion? After all that organization has strong religious roots (yes, Christian) and targets its efforts toward the world's poor and needy, especially children. Curiosity and my daughter required me to read the article (for the full story:

Here's a synopsis:

Albert Pujols and his wife Deidre travel to the Dominican Republic each year, not to vacation, but to chip away at poverty and hopelessness. The seven-time All Star and two-time NL MVP became the "mattress man" for at least 50 families one year. He and his wife hand-delivered a new mattress to homes without a decent place to sleep (the average family in that part of DR survives on $4 a day). No cameras, no reporters, but plenty of dust, heat, and sweat. They set the mattress into a previously delivered frame, then on to the next house. Compassion helped them find the neediest among the needy.

Pujols knows what poverty looks like, not only from these annual trips, but from his growing up years in nearby Santo Domingo. Raised in a poor neighborhood by his grandmother, a move to New York allowed the then sixteen-year-old to escape the gangs, the violence, and the hopelessness. But he did not escape a sense of community, a sense of responsibility for others.

The Pujols family efforts with Compassion International began where it does for thousands of others. In 2001 they started sponsoring a child. "Sponsoring" means monthly contributions (currently $38) to provide a basic diet, clean water, medical care, educational opportunities, life skills, and, true to Compassion's mission, spiritual instruction. "Sponsoring" usually means corresponding, too, so writing is more than another monthly check.

What started with one child grew to three--in the Pujols family, and in their Compassion sponsorship.

'So what? Albert makes millions!' some might respond.

But the Pujols' efforts didn't stop there. They and their foundation recently they began to pick up the tab for a medical program known as the Child Survival Program (CSP). Doctors, dentists, and ophthalmologists team up to invade the poor neighborhoods of DR one at a time.  Albert and Deidre think that's a good way to spend money. They give back, and plan to continue to do so. After all, 1,000,000 children under the age of 5 live in poverty in his homeland.

And there's more beyond that magazine article.

Albert and Deidre's oldest child Bella was born with Down Syndrome. Before making the majors, the Pujols family had to cope with the special needs brought by that disorder and a daughter they love. When financial success came along with stardom for the Cardinal firstbaseman, The Pujols Family Foundation was born. It focuses its funds and fund-raising on assisting the efforts of the Down Syndrome and helping the poor back in DR. Oh yeah, the Foundation began the year Albert got his call-up from AAA, not when he was making his millions (he was paid a $70k signing bonus and made $200k in 2001). The big money contract didn't come until 2004.

This is one family that apparently believes their life has been no accident, but one filled with divine appointments. Humble beginnings, baseball skills, opportunities to compete, a genetic malformation, a multimillion-dollar contract are all elements in a human story that has far more than self-gratification as its overriding theme. "Make a difference," sounds much more like it.

For this St. Louis Cardinal wherever he travels, he's not far from home. And he knows that place--DR or St. Louis--needs more than his investment. It needs his heart.

Hard not to cheer for that kind of player. Even if he wears a Cardinal uniform.

Some would say, especially wearing one.

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Category: MLB

Since: Aug 11, 2008
Posted on: June 21, 2009 4:14 pm

Can't Go Home Again? Albert Says: 'You Gotta!'

Yeah, BB, you're right. The St. Louis Biz Journal link makes it clear that Bella came into Deidre's life before Albert. But you're also right that Albert claims her as family like their other two kids. Right again about Albert being the real deal.

Since: Jul 21, 2008
Posted on: June 21, 2009 12:38 pm

Can't Go Home Again? Albert Says: 'You Gotta!'

Excellent blog.

I too sponsor a Compassion child and read the same article and all I can say is that Albert Pujols is a sight for sore eyes what with the current state of Major League Baseball. Keep it up, Albert!

Since: May 29, 2008
Posted on: June 18, 2009 10:33 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Mar 21, 2008
Posted on: June 18, 2009 10:02 am

Can't Go Home Again? Albert Says: 'You Gotta!'

Thanks for the story C&B.  I bleed red too, just a different shade (Huskers and Cardinals).  Laughing

Albert and family is an amazing story.  He knows where his priorities lie.  Stories like this need to be more mainstream, instead of the negative that we always hear about regarding the athletes.

A minor correction though, Albert is not Bella's biological father, but he loves and supports her, as if she was his own.

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