Sunday, October 26, 2008

Congrats, Albert!

Albert Pujols was named the winner of the 2008 Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award. I can't think of anyone more deserving. His foundation does such wonderful work for children with Down's Syndrome and for the under-privileged youth in his native Dominican Republic.

In giving his acceptance speech, Pujols became very emotional, and at times, he seemed on the verge of joyous tears. To see this reaction after observing such an even-keel, consistent demeanor on a game-to-game basis was quite powerful.

"[This is] a blessing, and I'm really honored," Pujols said. "First of all, I want to thank God to give me the opportunity to be here tonight and receive this award. I want to thank Major League Baseball and Chevy to be a part of this great award of Roberto Clemente. I want to thank my teammates, obviously, for the support that they give me during the year -- every event that we do for Down syndrome or golf tournament -- the fans in St. Louis and all over the United States and the Dominican Republic for the support that they give to the Pujols Family Foundation. I want to thank the Roberto Clemente family. I'm truly honored to receive this award. It's an honor to be here.

"It takes a lot of hard work for the Pujols Family Foundation, but it comes from our heart. I thank God every day for the opportunity he gives me to be in the big leagues and just take advantage of every little opportunity. I remember as a little boy in the Dominican Republic, all I want is to be in the big leagues. All I wanted was just to be a professional baseball player. I never thought this dream was going to come true and so quick in eight years.

"[Clemente] was not only a great baseball player -- everybody on this day remembers Roberto Clemente as a great baseball player, but we today remember him as a great man that loved other people and gave back to the community, whether in Pittsburgh or Nicaragua or Latin America or Puerto Rico. And I feel that's my responsibility, too, not just to be a baseball player, but to give back to others, whether in St. Louis or the United States or back in the Dominican Republic every year with our trip through the Pujols Family Foundation.

"At the end of the day, when all is said and done playing this game ... it doesn't matter what you did in the field, it's what you do off the field and the lives that you touch off the field. And I try to do that through our foundation. I try to do that when I go back to the Dominican Republic. I try to do that when I'm on the field because those kids, they look at us as a role model and we want to be a role model to those kids, because you never know.

"Like I was 15 years ago, a poor little boy in the Dominican Republic, my dream was just to be a professional baseball player. They might be somebody that day that you touch. And that person may become the best baseball player ever in the future. And probably in the future will thank me or any of us that touched their life.

"It's something that comes from my family. They always have that great heart to give back to the community. I remember my dad, [he would] stop eating and just give his food to feed other people. And me as a little boy growing up watching that, obviously, those are the good examples that you want to take with you."

What a wonderful guy. Congrats, Big Al. You deserve it for all of the work that you do for a very grateful St. Louis area.


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