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Spotlight on Albert Pujols

By Jason Blasco

It finally happened.  After dominating the Midwest League all season, third base prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols, received some good news.  He is one step closer to the major leagues with the promotion from class A Peoria to advanced class A Potomac.  The 6'3, 220 pound third basemen has demonstrated all season that he has enormous power potential by leading the league in average, total hits, slugging percentage, and extra basehits.  Pujols wasted no time in making a good impression on his new teammates.  In his first game, he showed why he was promoted, going 2-4 with 2 RBIs as a member of the Cannons. 

    If you think the 20-year-old was nervous making his debut in Potomac, you might want to think again.  Albert has nerves of steel and confidence that he can play.  Pujols says, " I wasn't nervous going into my first professional game in Peoria, because I feel that the instructional league really prepared me for what professional baseball was going to be like.  The coaches in the instructional league were really instrumental in my development, and I learned about hitting, pitching, and how to play better defense.  I still have a lot to learn about baseball."  

    This positive attitude towards learning about baseball seems to be working for him as it has helped him earn Midwest League all-star honors, hitting consistently, and has helped him learn how to prepare for games in the tough day-to-day grind that is the minor leagues.  Pujols says, "Playing in the Midwest League All-Star Game was one of my most memorable moments in baseball.  It was my first year playing in the Cardinal's organization, and it was a lot of fun."

    Perhaps this is bad news to opposing pitchers that he still has a lot to learn about baseball.  In Peoria, he was hitting .324  before being called up.  They are already pitching around him in single A, like the Dayton Dragons did 4 times in one game, fearing he might it one over the wall filled with advertisements for another homerun.  His competitive fire is also evident.  Even when he got a well deserved day off against the Wisconsin Timber
Rattlers, he still dressed and was cheering for his teammates all night long. 
     He came out of the left side of the dugout about 4 times to congratulate and encourage his teammates on a job well done.  Pujols later came into that game to pinch hit.  Playing down by two runs, he drove the ball deep for a popout, and really showed the competitive spirit he has.

    Perhaps his competitive spirit comes from his family's athletic background.  Albert, who started playing baseball around the age of three, was not the only one playing baseball in his family.  His dad played baseball, his brothers played baseball, and his sister played softball.  He would play baseball hour after hour while growing up in the Dominican Republic.  Pujols says, "That is just a way of life in the Dominican Republic.  Everyone plays baseball there."  Not only did Albert Pujols play baseball when he was young, but he also showed that he had athletic ability in basketball, where he excelled in high school.  Pujols says, "Basketball
was a hobby.  I did excel in basketball in high school, but I never really thought I had a chance to play professionally." 

    His athletic ability and competitive spirit is obvious. But  with all of the talk about his powerful bat, his defensive prowess has been a little overshadowed until recently, when Baseball America acknowledge his glove in their recent issue. They focused on his best tools.  He was named best batting prospect, and he also won best defensive third basemen in the Midwest League, using his natural athletic ability to dive for hard to reach
baseballs and making a hard play look effortless, at times.  
    This dominance is nothing new to Albert Pujols.  Playing baseball for the American Legion team, Hi-Boy/Post 340, he dominated almost every game.  In a
game that was dominated by a pitcher with 14 trikeouts, he crushed a baseball 450 feet for a grandslam homerun that went past the railroad tracks, and landed in a mulberry bush.  Albert says, "That was also one of my most memorable moments in baseball." 

    After playing for the American Legion team, Pujols then went to play for the Maples Community College Hays Larks.  After one season though, it was evident
that he was going to be to be in the Major League's Annual Amateur Draft.  Drafted by the Cardinals in the 13th round, he was offered a $10,000 signing bonus.  Albert wanted to sweeten the deal as he told Baseball America, "He thought he was worth more than that."  Indeed, the deal did sweeten as he held out to play for the Hays Larks in the summer and after a short time of
dominating, got a $60,000 bonus.  
 
    Albert Pujols definantly has a bright future ahead of him, with his meticulous preparation in studying pitchers' strengths and weaknesses, his competitive fire, his work ethic, and his bat that can smash a baseball into another
atmosphere.  Peoria fans may have heard, for the last time, the announcer shout number 21, Albert Pujols, as he looks to be making his march towards Busch Stadium and super stardom.       


 

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