07/08/09 7:32 PM ET
All-Star centerpiece joins Derby field
Leading vote-getter Pujols to participate in Monday event
By Matthew Leach and Cash Kruth / MLB.com
MLB has made Pujols a centerpiece of its promotions for All-Star weekend, and he said in April that he intended to participate in the Derby as long as he was healthy and selected to the National League All-Star team. On Sunday, Pujols was named to the team, and on Monday he implicitly confirmed his health when he was also named to the Derby field.
"It's good, it's a great honor to be an All-Star and have the opportunity to be in the Home Run Derby in your hometown where you play," Pujols said. "Hopefully I can perform good for the fans and I'm pretty excited."
Pujols leads the Major Leagues in home runs with 31. He recently became the seventh player in history to reach 30 home runs before July 1, as well as the third-youngest player in history to total 350 career homers.
The Cardinals slugger has participated in the Derby twice. In 2003, he made it all the way to the finals before falling to the Angels' Garret Anderson. He made it to the second round of the Derby in 2007 in San Francisco.
Also participating from the NL are the other three first basemen on the roster: San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder.
In addition, Pujols will participate in the "Call Your Shot" promotion, in which a fan points to a spot in the stands and Pujols attempts to hit a batting practice home run to that area. If he is successful, the fan wins a prize package.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he has no problem with Pujols participating in the Derby and other All-Star events, as long as he's feeling OK physically.
"I told him he's going to have to judge," La Russa said. "There's going to be quite a bit of interest in him performing and I think if he feels good on Monday, then he's willing to do it, but if something gets tweaked over the weekend that'd be foolish."
Pujols said he's not only excited to participate in the Home Run Derby, but also have his two teammates, catcher Yadier Molina and closer Ryan Franklin, at the All-Star Game with him.
"I thank the fans for voting, not just for me, but for my teammates, too," Pujols said. "To have the opportunity to be in such a great event with some of the other great players in the game, obviously, I'm really humbled and honored to be there."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com and Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.