Albert Pujols thanks God for storybook ending with cardinals

Albert Pujols points skyward after hitting a home run. (AP Photo/Matt York)

As soon as the St. Louis Cardinals gave Albert Pujols the chance to end his career where it started, the 42-year-old knew where he would be spending his final season. Other Proposed Teams more money and more playing time. He didn’t care.

“I obviously took a lot less money and fewer promises,” he added. Pujols said Saturday, “but that’s where I want to be. This is where I wanted to finish my senior year, and thank God he allowed me to have this door open to come here to finish my career.

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It was meant to be a nostalgic reunion with longtime teammates Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, a chance to make another playoff run. Pujols could provide another experienced voice in the locker room, perhaps creating a few more memories for Cardinals fans to cherish.

But something has happened since the All-Star break. Pujols went back 15 years and became the best hitter in baseball. Since July 23, he’s hitting .453 with eight home runs and 18 RBIs in 19 games. His on-base percentage is exactly .500 and the Cardinals have won 17 of their last 21 games.

Suddenly, Pujols is second all-time in total bases and just seven home runs short of 700 for his career. Only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) have achieved this feat.

A few hours after being named NL co-player of the week alongside teammate and believer Paul Goldschmidt, Pujols hit No. 693 of Drew Smyly in a 1-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night. Smyly was the 449th different launcher Pujols went deep, tying him with Barry Bonds for the all-time record.

Pujols went 4-for-4 with two home runs in a 16-7 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday, and got another hit from the bench on Sunday. Not surprisingly, no player had ever had four hits and made the yard twice in the same game at 42 or older.

Speaking to USA Today ahead of Saturday’s game, Pujols admitted he didn’t know what this season would look like and said he was just trying to honor God by making the most of the gifts he’s been blessed with. .

“I feel really good to tell you the truth”, he said. “I really didn’t know what I could do, but I know I worked hard with the gift the Lord gave me. I had no idea what the year would be like, but what I could control was dedication and hard work.

That dedication and hard work is a big reason he was able to play 22 major league seasons. Pujols wasted no time in announcing his arrival at the majors, winning Rookie of the Year in 2001 and finishing in the top three in MVP voting for the next five seasons. He won the award in 2005, ’08 and ’09.

The 11-time All-Star joined former MLB pitcher Scott Linebrink on Sports Spectrum’s “Get in the Game” podcast last year and discussed the role his faith played in keeping him grounded during his rapid rise to stardom.

“Fame and success came very, very fast for me, but I think one thing that kept me humble was my relationship with God – knowing that I would never forget where I came from,” said Pujols on the podcast. “Knowing that through him I was able to serve others and care about others and not myself. It’s nice. It was a nice trip.

In order to serve others, he and his wife, Deidre, led the Pujols Family Foundation since 2005. The nonprofit aims to “honor God and strengthen families through works, deeds and example,” according to its website.

Pujols’ remarkable streak of success this season has sparked speculation he could return next year if he drops just below 700 home runs. He quickly rejected this idea over the weekend and confirmed that this season will be his last.

“No matter what happens, homie,” he said USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, “I wouldn’t change a thing. I had an incredible career. How blessed am I?’

With the Cardinals holding a five-game lead in NL Central, Pujols will likely have the team’s remaining 41 regular season games and the playoffs to make the conversation irrelevant. They continue a five-game, four-day series against the Chicago Cubs with a doubleheader on Tuesday.

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