In the world of sports, there is always a player that breathes greatness and bestows upon us a superhero mentality that makes all things believable. In this current time, you’d be hard-pressed to find an argument against naming that commodity … and his name is Albert Pujols.
For the City of Brotherly Love, Pujols will always be synonymous with the talk of a Ryan Howard trade when they both were going through contract analytics and setting the National League on fire. In a way, Pujols was to Howard like Michael Jordan was to the New York Knicks franchise. While Howard was a dominant force, he still couldn’t break through the All-Star starting lineup due to the mere presence of Pujols, just like the Knicks could never get past Jordan. He was, and still is, an unprecedented talent that continues to assemble his own path to Cooperstown.
Living in an era of baseball where all things are questioned and players’ attitudes are still hindered by a diva mentality, it’s nice to see a true player perform cleanly within himself and his ability. Pujols is rarely in the news and negativity seems to never be able to crash through his shield. No crying. No lackadaisical play. Just a barrage of constant plate discipline, line drives and home runs. All this unselfish and modest play has led us up to the launch of No. 600 in a list that continues to climb.
Pujols grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved to Missouri as a teenager to pursue his baseball dream. According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated story by Joe Posnanski, Pujols batted 88 times as a senior in high school, amassing eight home runs and was walked intentionally 55 times. That means he was only pitched to for 33 at-bats!
In one year at Maple Woods Community College, the then premier junior college baseball program in Greater Kansas City, Pujols hit .461 with 22 home runs, which enticed the St. Louis Cardinals to spend a 13th-round pick on the 19-year-old. Pujols was called up to the big leagues eventually after Bobby Bonilla pulled up lame with a bad hamstring. As a 21-year-old starter, who was less than two years removed from junior college, Pujols’ journey as a special player had just begun.
Pujols started this season nine home runs away from the magical 600 mark, and with 40,236 fans on their feet Pujols drilled 1-2 pitch from the Minnesota Twins’ Ervin Santana high into the night sky. In the 58th game of the young season, Pujols has reached a plateau that only eight others have reached before him. He becomes the ninth player ever to hit 600 major league home runs, with Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez (613 each) as the only others to hit that mark in their first 17 seasons. With four months left in the 2017 campaign, there’s no reason to think Pujols eclipsing that mark isn’t feasible.
It’s a rarity in sports to find such a modest player whose talents far excel that of his peers. At age 37, Pujols is no longer the dominant force he once was, but still produces at a clip that many dare to dream about. He has averaged 25 home runs/season over the past five, which says he could eventually break Bonds’ record of 763 if he can keep this same rate of production going for the next six. He is just 124 hits short of 3,000 and 141 RBIs away from 2,000. Another round of accomplishments that, barring any setbacks, will be attained in the next coming year.
As an opposing player, coach or average spectator, the magic of Pujols has been undeniable. His noticeable superhero build, powerful follow through and rumble echoed in your ears as his rounds around the bases is something that needs to witnessed. He has graced us with his talents for the better part of 15 years and still gives us moments to remember. Ones like his moon shot off of Brad Lidge that is possibly still traveling through time and picking up speed.
Will there be any more shots like that? Probably not. However, Pujols has already cemented his legacy as one of MLB’s greatest players and still warrants a flash from every phone inside the venue in which he is slated to perform.
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