We watch a lot of sports at my house, and while my boys are still pretty young, I’m sensitive to wanting them to observe not just the athletic exploits, but things like sportsmanship, attitude, and character. As baseball season approaches, we’re eagerly awaiting some Braves baseball, and watching our favorite players (guys like McCann, Heyward, and Chipper). But there’s little doubt that the best player in the game is the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols. The nice thing about Pujols is that he’s someone you can point your son to with confidence that this is a guy with character, who approaches the game the right way, and whose priorities and values match our own. A new biography, Pujols: More Than the Game, seeks to make the case for his greatness both on and off the field.
There is a formal disclosure below about the fact that I got the book for free. Full disclosure also would require that I consider Tim Ellsworth, the co-author, to be a friend.
The book essentially lays out two goals: (1) to prove that Albert Pujols is the greatest player in the game today and one of the greatest ever; and (2) to prove that he is great off the field as well, and that his off-field greatness flows from his relationship with Jesus Christ. These two goals are interwoven in a fairly cyclical pattern where you get one chapter of baseball stuff, usually tracing a particular season in Pujols’ career, and one chapter talking about his off-field life, focusing on how his relationship with Christ influences him.
As to the first goal, there are a lot of stats to back up the claim. Baseball people love their stats, and while I’m a baseball fan, statistics cause my eyes to glaze over. The recounts of each season are sprinkled with highlights and lowlights and occassional anecdotes. If you’re a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, you’ll probably really enjoy these chapters. If you’re not, then you may find these chapters less interesting.
The second goal encompasses the most interesting components of the book for me. Here we learn about Pujols’ conversion experience, his very solid family life, and his charitable work (he is deeply involved in projects in his native Dominican Republic and in work with the Downs Syndrome community). It’s interesting and amusing to hear of the first baseman asking opposing baserunners where they’d go if they died tonight. It’s cool to read about him leading a teammate to Christ and taking younger Latin players under his wing. Though he has a reputation as being prickly with the press, Pujols seems to be a man whose walk with Christ genuinely influences how he lives and works. A cursory look around the modern sports landscape affirms that this is not all that common. He’s a guy who is a true role model, though far from perfect. Though the authors do occasionally mention his shortcomings, the charge could be made that they are a bit too laudatory in their assessment.
This is honestly not a particularly inspirational story in the sense that it will change your life or something like that. But it’s well written and reads well. If you’re a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals I think you’d love it. If Pujols played for the Braves I’m sure I’d love the book because I’d be more invested in the baseball parts. But it’s a nice, casual read that will interest general sports fans and those who are interested in how a Christian uses a major platform for good.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com