By Allen Palmeri
ST. LOUIS (BP) – The narratives of Albert “El Hombre” Pujols and Stan “The Man” Musial continue to be woven together in St. Louis Cardinals history with the Nov. 24 announcement that Pujols had matched Musial with his third National League Most Valuable Player award.
Pujols now has won in 2005, 2008 and 2009; Musial won in 1943, 1946 and 1948.
Cardinal fans view both men as gentlemen and legends. Musial has a statue at Busch Stadium. Pujols is working on one.
Pujols, 29, is one of America’s more prominent Christian athletes. He and his wife, Deidre, run the Pujols Family Foundation, which seeks to honor God by strengthening families. The couple and their three children live in Wildwood, a St. Louis suburb that prides itself on its educational excellence, character and natural beauty and where they attend West County Community Church, a Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC)-affiliated congregation that runs about 400-600 people in Sunday worship.
West County Community Church’s pastor of 16 years, Phil Hunter, has connected with Pujols for many years. With Hunter’s name recognition as a former MBC state evangelism director, it is safe to say that many Missouri Baptists this decade have prayed for Pujols to be well-mentored.
Four years ago, when he won his first MVP award, then-MBC President Ralph Sawyer commented that he liked how the glory all was going to God.
“He always puts God first, family second and his vocation follows that,” said Sawyer, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wentzville. “We can learn from that. That is a great testimony.”
Hunter said pretty much the same thing in mid-November about the prospect of Pujols winning his third MVP.
“The thing I appreciate about Albert and Deidre is their tenderheartedness toward the Lord,” Hunter said. “Albert and Deidre are growing in the grace and knowledge of what it means that Christ is the Lord of their lives. I count it a privilege of God’s grace in my life and His providence that I have a friendship and a love, as well as my family, with the Pujolses.”
Pujols, during a Nov. 11 appearance at a non-denominational church in Chesterfield, pointed to Hunter on the front row and identified him to an audience of 300 as his pastor. Hunter said he took it to mean that he was being singled out like any other friend might have been in that situation.
Pujols is the only player in major league history to bat .300, hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs in each of his first nine seasons. In honor of that prodigious production, his ESPN nickname is “The Machine.”
He is the subject of a forthcoming biography by two Southern Baptists – Tim Ellsworth, director of news and media relations at Union University and Baptist Press Sports editor, and Scott Lamb, director of research to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. Published by Thomas Nelson, it is scheduled for release in early spring 2011.
Pujols was a unanimous selection as league MVP.