José Alberto Pujols (born January 16, 1980 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) is a Major League Baseball player with the St. Louis Cardinals. He is widely regarded as one of the best offensive players in the game and hits consistently for average and power. In recent years he has also become an above-average defensive player at first base. On August 5, 2005, Pujols became the first player in Major League history to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first five seasons. On August 31 of that year, he became the first Major League player since Ted Williams to reach the 100 RBI mark in each of his first five seasons.
Born into poverty in the Dominican Republic, Pujols's family emigrated to the United States in the early 1990s, first to New York City and then later to Independence, Missouri. In the U.S., Pujols gained his love for baseball, batting over .500 in his first season of high school baseball. After high school, Pujols attended Maple Woods Community College in the Kansas City area. In his first season with the community college, Pujols showed off his talent, hitting a grand slam and turning an unassisted triple play in his first game and batting .461 for the year.
The St. Louis Cardinals became interested in Pujols, eventually drafting him in the 13th round of the 1999 draft. However, Pujols initially turned down a mere $10,000 bonus and opted to play in the Jayhawk League in Kansas instead. However, by the end of the summer of 1999, the Cardinals had increased their bonus offer to $60,000 and Pujols signed with the Cardinals and was assigned to the developmental leagues.
By 2000, Pujols was assigned to the Peoria Chiefs of the single-A Midwest League, where he was voted league MVP. Pujols quickly progressed through the ranks of the St. Louis farm clubs, first at the Potomac Cannons in the high-A Carolina League and then with the Memphis Redbirds in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. In just seven games with the Redbirds in 2000, Pujols hit .367 with two home runs.
During spring training in 2001, the Cardinals were preparing for Pujols to join the Major League ranks, but the Cardinals' roster was already full of talented players, including Mark McGwire, Fernando Vina, Edgar Renteria, Ray Lankford, Jim Edmonds and J.D. Drew. However, an injury to bench player Bobby Bonilla freed up a roster spot, and Pujols played on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies in Denver.
In the season's second series, playing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Pujols hit a home run, three doubles and eight runs batted in, securing his spot on the team. By May, he was named National League Rookie of the Month. By June, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game by NL manager Bobby Cox, the first Cardinal rookie named to the team since 1955. Pujols continued with his phenomenal rookie season, helping the Cardinals earn a tie for the National League Central Division title. For the season, Pujols batted .329 with 37 home runs and 130 runs batted in and was unanimously named the National League Rookie of the Year.
In 2002, Pujols struggled early as pitchers learned to pitch to him, but he continued to bat well throughout the season, hitting .314 with 34 homers and 127 RBIs. The Cardinals finished first in the NL Central during a difficult campaign that saw the death of team announcer Jack Buck and the sudden death of pitcher Darryl Kile. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NL Championship series.
In the 2003 season, Pujols had his best season yet, batting .359 with 43 home runs and 124 RBIs, winning the National League batting title, but the Cardinals failed to make the playoffs, faltering in the stretch to the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. Pujols also finished second in the MVP voting, losing the award to Barry Bonds.
For 2004, Pujols was nagged by hamstring problems, but was still a powerful hitter, hitting .331 with 46 home runs and 123 RBI. In addition, Pujols was chosen to appear on the cover of EA Sports' video game, MVP Baseball 2004. He was also the MVP of the 2004 National League Championship Series, helping his team reach the World Series, where they were swept by the Boston Red Sox.
The 2005 season saw Pujols establish career highs in walks and stolen bases, while leading his team in almost every offensive category. He finished with a .330 batting average, a .430 on-base percentage, a .609 slugging percentage, 41 home runs (including his 200th career homer), a grand slam, 117 RBIs, 97 walks, and 16 stolen bases. However, due to continually nagging leg injuries, he finished with a career-low 38 doubles. The Cardinals were eliminated 4 games to 2 in the National League Championship Series, but Pujols hit a memorable home run in game 5—a 2-out, 3-run blast in the top of the 9th inning, off of Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge to stave off elimination. After the season, Pujols received his first National League MVP award, underscoring his critical role in keeping the injury-plagued Cardinals on track throughout the season.
Pujols is married with three children, Isabella (step-daughter), Albert, Jr. and Sophia. Albert and his wife, Deidre, are active in the Down syndrome community, as Isabella is afflicted by this chromosomal condition. In 2005, they launched the Pujols Family Foundation which is dedicated to "the love, care and development of people with Down Syndrome and their families" and "reaching out to impoverished families and children in the Dominican Republic." Pujols is very religious which is why the PFF is bedrocked on the quote, "In the Pujols family, God is first. Everything else is a distant second."
- Rookie of the Year, 2001
- Hank Aaron Award, 2003
- The Sporting News Player of the Year Award|TSN Player of the Year, 2003
- NLCS MVP, 2004
- 4-time All-Star 2001,2003-2005
- 3-time Silver Slugger 2001, 2003-2004
- Pujols has finished in the top four in MVP voting every year of his career, winning once and coming in second twice (each time to Barry Bonds.
- Became first player in MLB history to hit 30 home runs in each of his first five seasons, 2005
- Only Ralph Kiner hit more home runs (215) in his first five seasons than Albert (201).
- Named to Major League Baseball's Latino Legends Team in 2005 as the starting first baseman.
- National League MVP, 2005
Simply put: the best hitter in the game today.
Practically no weakness in the box. Perhaps the quickest hands in the majors which allow him to sit on one pitch and adjust to another with power. Can hit low/high, inside/oustside—anywhere—for contact and power. Ability to hit the ball out of the ball park to all fields. Does not miss mistakes.
There is no sure way to get him out and if you manage to do it once with a pitch, he adjusts the next at-bat to drive that same pitch. Can hit your best pitch out of the park and has the extension and bat speed to hit balls off the plate in or out and even above his hands. Keeps a level swing at all times hitting line drives with his mounting homerun totals coming almost by accident. Can get fooled and still adjust to hit a line drive.
A rare combination of patience with incredible contact skills that allow him to walk without taking any significant number of strikeouts. The only reason he doesn't walk more is because when he swings, he hits the ball.
Constantly adjusting: mid-at bat, mid-game, mid-season, off-season—all the time. He finds a way to get better after every swing. Consequently, he is relentlessly consistent with a slump being hitting .300 with power.
Below average speed but a sixth sense on the basepaths, always taking the extra base and rarely getting thrown out. Hustles almost every play when not ailing from any nagging injury.
A now gold-glove caliber first-baseman. Quick first step with great reaction times that allow him to reach balls other first-baseman don't get. Strong arm for a first-baseman that lets him turn double plays smoothly and attack runners on bunts. Scoops balls as well as any first-baseman in the league.
- Selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round of the free-agent draft on June 2, 1999 - signed on August 17, 1999.