Yet, just as Pujols is singly-focused on the field, off it he remains a humble man, willing to give his time and energy to those less fortunate than he.
The celebration of all things Pujols is brought to us in a new book by best-selling author Rob Rains. "Albert the Great: The Albert Pujols Story" focuses on the past ten years. During that period, Pujols progressed from a just-arrived-in-America high schooler to a junior college player, to a minor league star, to a surprising major league rookie, to arguably, the best hitter in the game today.
Rains tells the story at each step of the way, with many unknown anecdotes, in the book's 128 glossy pages. But, in my view, the stars of this 8-1/2" x 11" book are the dozens of color photos of the Great Pujols in action, from his minor league days to the current time and every stop in between, including a generous helping from the 2004 championship season.
Among the gems is Pujols telling the story of how and why he almost quit the game after being selected in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft. At each stop along the road, the reader learns more and more about the determination and drive that helps set Pujols apart as a player, as told by peers, coaches, scouts, broadcasters and many others. After a while, they seem to run out of new superlatives to offer. Pujols really is that good.
There is also a chapter about Pujols' charity efforts, both in his native Dominican Republic and in fighting Down Syndrome as well as a reminder of how important Albert's faith is to him. (As an aside, learn more at Pujols' website, www.pujolsfamilyfoundation.org.)
The final section of the book is devoted to a thorough record of Pujols' career hitting statistics, including details of every home run as well as Pujols' standings in various lists of major league career-bests.
About the only unmet wish I had after reading this book was to learn even more than was offered about Pujols' childhood in the Dominican Republic. Perhaps I was hoping those details would extinguish the nagging question about Pujols' age that has never entirely been resolved. Instead, the book inadvertently increased my curiosity level. After all, more than one coach and scout who had observed the young Pujols was quoted in the book in awe of his status as a "man playing among boys".
But, really my only concern is that this book, like Pujols' career, has to be considered a work in progress. We have to assume that if Rains will need to write a new volume of Albert the Great every four years, that there could be three or more installments coming down the road of what most have to assume will be a Hall-of-Fame career.
For just $19.95 in hardcover form, "Albert the Great: The Albert Pujols Story" should have a prominent place on the coffee table of every Cardinals fan.
About the author
Rob Rains has been writing about baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals for the past 25 years. A former beat writer covering the Cardinals for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Rains also spent five years as the National League beat writer for USA Today Baseball Weekly. Currently a free-lance writer and author, Rains also is an adjunct professor at Webster University and co-hosts a baseball talk show on KMOX Radio in St. Louis. He is the author of 23 books, including 12 on the Cardinals. Among his books are a biography of Mark McGwire which reached The New York Times' bestseller list in 1998. Rains lives in St. Louis with his wife Sally and sons B.J. and Mike.
To buy the book
Rains' books are available from your local independent bookstore, the major chains such as Borders and Barnes and Noble and from the publisher, www.SportsPublishingLLC.com.
Meet the author
To meet Rains and former pitcher Ken Dailey, head out to the Borders in Ballwin at 1 pm Saturday. You can also get your book signed.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.