With the Major League Hall of Fame assured, the 42-year-old Dominican slugger experiences in his last season the same sensation as a rookie: establishing a new historical mark for Latino baseball players .
Photo: Flickr - Jeffrey Hayes
LatinAmerican Post | Onofre Zambrano
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Leer en español: 700: el número que cierra la exitosa carrera de Albert Pujols
Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds are three names that are part of the rich history of Major League Baseball and that, in addition, make up the select group of sluggers capable of hitting more than 700 home runs in the history of the majors. For any other baseball player, getting a space next to this golden trident is a feat, much more so if it is a Latino.
Reaching such a number of home runs and playing 20 seasons in the so-called best baseball in the world is a guarantee for any player to enter the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, a kind of membership club that honors the best players in the history of this circuit. Today, the Dominican Albert Pujols is only three home runs away from completing the two conditions, with the emotional addition that he is playing his last season in the majors.
Pujols will close his cycle this year after two successful decades wearing the colors of the San Luis Cardinals, his current team, and the Los Angeles Angels, winning two World Series rings in 2006 and 2011. Both with the organization from Missouri, the same one that gave him the opportunity to stay active after leaving the Californian team.
The regular season ends on Sunday, October 2 and that seems to be the stretch available for the Dominican to achieve his goal in the remaining games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Many wonders if he doesn't make the mark, will he reconsider his decision to retire?
A Brilliant Career, but He Does not Intend to Return
The slugger from Quisqueyá is firm in his decision, since he hinted that, if he does not reach the 700 homer mark, he will still hang up the spikes as soon as this campaign ends. “I really don't plan on going back next year. This is it for me, I'm going to take a break and I feel like my career has come to this point," Fansided.com compiled. " I'm focused on getting to 700 home runs. And if God has that in store for me, I will be even more blessed."
Pujols has already won 3 MVP Awards, 6 Silver Sluggers, 2 Gold Gloves and 2 Hank Aaron Awards. He also has a Roberto Clemente Award, Rookie of the Year in 2001, 11 All-Star selections, a batting title and the aforementioned pair of World Series rings, all in 22 seasons. He was chosen MVP of the 2004 Championship Series and MVP of the National League in 2005, 2008 and 2009.
As far as individual numbers go, he is the fifth-highest home run hitter in major league history (697 at the time of writing), 10th in hits (3,364), fifth in doubles (683) and third in RBIs (2,193). The most incredible thing is that a couple of seasons ago, in the midst of the 2020 pandemic, the 700 mark was a utopia.
Vitality at 40
Albert Pujols has already surpassed a Dominican, Alex Rodríguez, in terms of home runs for a Latino, and there really are few things left for him to do on the offensive side. The veteran hitter has shown that the key to performing at his age is to stay motivated, as it is a psychological factor that applies to all sports.
“During the 23 years that I have played as a professional and the 37 that I have played in my life, I have always appreciated this game ; you have to appreciate it. This opportunity comes once, and that is something I have been blessed with. I play every game as if it were the last of my career,” he added to ESPN. What Pujols says is corroborated by his teammates and acquaintances after what they have seen of him on the pitch in the second part of the season.
The prime example of this is Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol. "There's something impressive and then something incredible, and what we're witnessing right now is absolutely legendary." Also, the Colombian José Quintana, starting pitcher for the Missouri ninth, told ESPN: “It's incredible. It feels like living the dream when you see a player like him." Those comments are the same ones that were heard about his qualities in 2006, when he carved out his best season in the majors by setting several records, including the most RBI home runs held by the legendary Willie Mays, winning his first World Series and also the glove gold as best third pad defender.
Who Is Albert Pujols?
He was born on January 16, 1980, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is the only child of Bienvenido Pujols, who was a softball pitcher with an alcohol addiction. This situation forced his grandmother to raise him until the family decision came that changed his life in 1996, when he was just 16 years old. They emigrated to the United States to live in New York. His conditions allowed him to earn a place at Fort Osage High School in Independence, where he batted for an average of over 500, being named the best athlete in the state. He did not neglect his studies, and finished high school in 1998. The following year, he attended the Metropolitan Community College, which awarded him a scholarship to play baseball.
He turned down a $1,000 offer from the Cardinals after being selected in the 13th round of the draft, choosing to play in the Jayhawk Collegiate League. The Cardinals increased their offer to $6,000 in order to convince him. In 2000, he participated in the Minor League with the Peoria Chiefs, being elected MVP of the league. In 2001 and after passing through different teams in the city, a conjunctural moment arose in which several Cardinals players were injured, opening the doors for him as a third baseman. He debuted in the MLB on April 2 of that year, and at once was elected National League Rookie of the Year, in addition to playing in the All Star Game.
After declaring himself a free agent after the 2010-11 campaign, he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for ten years and 254 million dollars, forming one of the most fearsome duos of hitters in the Major League with Mike Trout. Pujols married Deidre in 2000, with whom he founded the Pujols Foundation.