Pujols following in Clemente's footsteps
Slugger leads group of doctors to Dominican to help sick kids
ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols can't always quote chapter and verse when it comes to baseball's past, but one historical figure he knows well is Roberto Clemente. Pujols holds a deep admiration for the late Hall of Famer, both because of Clemente's on-field skills as well as his humanitarian efforts.
So it's appropriate that for the third straight season, Pujols is the Cardinals' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. Not only is the slugger a superstar in the batter's box, but his Pujols Family Foundation does more good work every year.
The Clemente Award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972. The winner will be announced during the World Series.
The foundation took a major step forward in 2007, when Pujols led a group of doctors to the Dominican Republic to tend to roughly 1,000 poor children in need of medical assistance. Pujols missed the Cardinals' trip to the White House in order to participate in the mission.
"It's a little bit of everything," Pujols said at the time of the trip. "Just giving love to those kids, cleaning teeth, seeing what kind of surgery they need. ... Taking clothes, food, whatever we can do to help those kids out. You're talking about kids that lost their mom and dad when they were six months old, a year old. They haven't gotten love from their parents. We want to give that."
The foundation was established in 2005, with the stated mission to "live and share our commitment to faith, family and others." Pujols hosts an annual celebrity golf tournament to raise money for the foundation, and he is active in local causes -- particularly the Down Syndrome Association of St. Louis.
But it was the mission to the Dominican that showed what the foundation might really be capable of. Like Clemente, Pujols has prioritized the betterment of his homeland and of Latin America in general. He hopes to make the medical missions an annual event.
"Right now, we're going to go one year at a time," Pujols said. "But obviously our goal is to try to do it every year.
"I want to concentrate one year at a time. But this is something that we want to do every year, to go to a different country and help people out."
In May of this year, Pujols helped make another mark in the Dominican. The foundation presented $65,000 to the Children of Christ Orphanage in the Dominican to help build a vocational school for orphans.
"Our main goal," said Pujols, "is to share with them what God has done in our lives and in my career, and what he has done throughout the foundation."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.