Wednesday, March 23, 2011

[Book Review] "Pujols: More Than the Game" by Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth

Disclaimer: I received the book free from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.
Nolan Ryan, Mark McGwire, and Ricky Henderson were some of my baseball heroes growing up. I would contend with anyone that Ryan is the best pitcher the game has ever seen. In recent years, we've seen many baseball stars brought down by allegations of steroid abuse, McGwire included. Albert Pujols is not one of them. To be honest, I've mostly been in the dark about baseball over the past 10 years or so and had no idea who Pujols was when I selected this book for review. If I paid much attention to sports, I surely would have heard about this possibly best baseball player ever. In this book, "Pujols: More Than the Game," Lamb and Ellsworth offer up a portrait of a man who puts baseball second to his faith in Jesus Christ, yet still manages to play baseball better than anyone else.
Albert Pujols was born in the Dominican Republic and grew up around his dad's playing softball and his dad's drunkedness. His family moved to the U.S. when he was 16 where he played baseball for a high school near Kansas City, MO. Out of that, he developed a work ethic around baseball that continues to this day and shows in the statistics that Pujols continues to put up. Pujols became a Christian while playing junior college ball through going to church with his future wife, DeeDee, who had a downs syndrome child, Isabella. Taking care of this child would shape what the future of the Pujols' ministry off the field would look like. 
Pujols played minor league ball for approximately a year in the St. Louis farm system, bouncing around teams as they needed him. In every case, he became heavily involved in whatever chapel was offered. Throughout his career, he has stayed strong in his faith. There were times when he seemed to say things or do things that might make you question, but he is only human after all and as human beings, we all make mistakes. He would often ask forgiveness for his mistakes and acknowledge that he did something wrong. How many superstars do that?
Lamb and Ellsworth spare little detail in this book as they write a chapter on each of Pujols' seasons of baseball, interspersing them with chapters on his life off the field. It's this off the field life that is most interesting. Pujols and DeeDee set up the Pujols Family Foundation to help care for those with downs syndrome and help care for the orphans and widows of the Dominican Republic. Much can be said about baseball contract negotiations and the money involved between the teams and the players. Pujols has used his money to care for those less fortunate. Based on what I read in this book, Pujols is a bigger hero off the field and knows what it's like to live Jesus' words in Matthew 5 regarding the beatitudes. 
With regards to the steroids scandal, the media was quick to add Pujols name to the list of steroid users implicated in the Mitchell Report, even though his name was not on that list. The authors give 20 reasons why Pujols is innocent of steroid use, and based on what I was able to read about his integrity and Christianity, one has only to trust that Pujols is innocent of these charges. His stats speak for themselves as there is no sudden spike, nor suddent drop in his stats. He is wholly consistent in how he plays the game. His integrity is consistent. He will not allow himself to be caught in a compromising situation in any way. 
Whatever the future holds of Pujols, now that he may be eligible for free agency at the end of this upcoming season, time will tell. Over the past decade, he has put up Hall of Fame stats, helped the orphans, widows, and downs syndrome, and shown no signs of letting up. Maybe he has the money to put forth to help those less fortunate, but has money ever been an issue with God? It's convicting to see such a big superstar doing so much for the kingdom of God when I feel like I do so little sometimes. Whether or not you like baseball, have been disenchanted by the steroid scandals, or don't like biographies, you should still read this book. It will challenge you and encourage you that despite anyone's status, one can impact the kingdom.