Other than the unprecedented attention being paid to the Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation, the biggest story of spring training so far has been Albert Pujols’ contract. Considering the way he has torn the cover off the ball his entire career, there’s a reason why just about anything regarding Pujols’ future would be big news in February. He, after all, isn’t just the best player in the game right now but possibly one of the best to ever play the game.
That a diehard Chicago Cubs fan is willing to say that should mean something. No amount of ill feelings for a baseball team can hide Albert Pujols’ greatness. Even the Phillies starting rotation has reason to fear this guy and his uncanny ability throughout his career of lulling pitchers into a false sense of security before erasing an 0-for-3 by unloading on a mammoth home run after falling behind in the count. If you don’t believe me, Pujols: More Than The Game has the statistics and the anecdotes that show why it will take a king’s ransom to keep Albert wearing a uniform with two cardinals resting on a bat for the rest of his career.
But while there are an ample enough use of baseball terms and stats to keep the baseball fan happy, Pujols: More Than The Game spends a great deal of its time exploring aspects of the slugger’s life that don’t show up in box scores, game recaps and as more than a passing reference in newspaper and magazine profiles. Through extensive research that at times gives the book a research paper feel, authors Tim Elmore and Scott Lamb piece together a narrative of Pujols’ life without skimming the details of a faith that motivates him not just to share the gospel with tens of thousands of people in the stands on Christian Family Day, but with opponents as they stop by first base in the middle of the game.
Alternating between stories of how he went from being the son of an alcoholic softball star in the Dominican Republic to being drafted No. 401 from a community college in Missouri to running away with MVP awards, the authors give a view into the things Pujols is most proud of – like his family, his foundation that reaches out to those with special needs locally and to orphanages in the Dominican Republic and his desire to serve God in all that he does.
In telling Albert’s story, the authors don’t paint him completely with rose-colored glasses by recounting aspects of his life and career that he’s not completely proud of and addressing features of his personality that don’t always rub people the right way. Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnaski, in his intro to the book, recounts his own experience of feeling blown off on a couple of occasions by Albert only to in a subsequent off-the-field encounter be embraced, literally, with open arms.
The authors also devote the better part of a chapter to the steroid question, which despite a lack of any evidence fingering Pujols has and will likely continue to cast doubt on any modern player with stats so impressive. Their conclusion predictably sides with Pujols, but is still a compelling argument I hope and pray is never contradicted by subsequent evidence.
Ultimately, the book points to the reason for Pujols’ has without deifying the player himself or suggesting that just because he’s good at hitting a baseball he somehow has an easier path to follow in his Christian journey.
If you don’t already respect Pujols, this book will probably earn it because you’ll see that he isn’t quite the boring “machine-like” person his play on the field sometimes suggests. While there are athletes with more compelling stories and career trajectories with a lot more failure and setbacks to overcome, the mere fact that people who count themselves among the craziest fanbase in sports will pick up this book and end up hearing the Gospel is awesome. They’ll get the book for the baseball but know after reading it that even the best player in the game humbles himself at the feet of the throne of King Jesus. That alone far outweighs any shortcomings this book may have in style, flow and content and should be enough for fans of all or no teams to appreciate and be inspired by.
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A complimentary copy of this book was provided by its publisher, Thomas Nelson.