December 9, 2011

Who is Albert?

While most of the baseball world is analyzing and discussing the impact Albert Pujols will have on the Angles, the American League West and baseball as a whole, this blog decided to head off in a different direction.

As a fan, I know I will never have the opportunity to get to know Albert on a personal level and what I know about him will come from what I can find on the internet, experience through the media and watch from a far. Never-the-less, the quest to know the man is something I wanted to take on and I found my answers quite easily and now I'm going to share what I found with you.

Who is Albert?

He has been called the greatest player of our generation; a sure fire-fire, first ballot Hall-of-Famer and yet this is now how Albert wants to be remembered.

He is a three-time National League Most Valuable Player, a nine-time all-star, a two-time Gold Glove winner, a six-time Silver Slugger recipient, a two-time World Champion, and a former Rookie-of-the-Year. These are the kind of rewards that bring tremendous glory to a baseball player and yet- Albert would rather give the glory to someone else.

His nickname is “The Machine” because he does things on a baseball field that go beyond what normal human beings ought to be able to accomplish. He has a career OPS of 1.037, 445 career homeruns, and a career .328 batting average. And yet – Albert is fully aware of just how flawed of a “human” he really is.

Little kids idolize him; grown men and women adore him and his peers may even envy him, but he would rather all of them worship someone else.

Who is this man?

This is his testimony as posted on the Pujols Family Foundation web site:

"Over the last decade my life has radically changed. I went from being a kid with a dream in the Dominican Republic, to playing professional baseball, Rookie of the Year, National League MVP, and winning a Gold Glove and World Championship!

What has not changed is my love for Jesus Christ. In the spring of 1998, my soon to be wife, Deidre, began sharing with me the love of Jesus. My most exciting moment came when I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life. If it weren't for Jesus, I would not be where I am today and my life would be without purpose. I've heard kids say they want to be just like me when they grow up. They should know I want to be just like Jesus."

This is who Albert is.

And this is his statement of faith…

It makes sense for the Pujols Family Foundation website to have information about what our foundation does, our events, and ways to partner with us. We obviously care greatly about people and families who live with Down syndrome, as well as those impoverished families I left behind in the Dominican Republic. But why “Faith?” Why is “Faith” the first word in our mission statement: “Faith, Family and Others?”
The answer simply is because our faith in Jesus Christ is the central point of our individual lives, our marriage, family and Foundation. Take Jesus Christ and faith in Him out of the equation and all those other things would not exist.

People have said to me, “Albert, I would give anything to be able to play baseball like you.” They may look at my abilities and think that being a great baseball player is the goal of my life. Believe it or not, baseball is not the chief ambition of my life. Becoming a great baseball player is important to me, but it is not my primary focus. Because I know the Hall of Fame is not my ultimate final destination.

My life’s goal is to bring glory to Jesus. My life is not mostly dedicated to the Lord, it is 100% committed to Jesus Christ and His will. God has given me the ability to succeed in the game of baseball. But baseball is not the end; baseball is the means by which my wife, Dee Dee, and I glorify God. Baseball is simply my platform to elevate Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I would also rather be known as a great husband and father than an All-Star baseball player. Perhaps one day I could be honored with an invitation into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. That would certainly be a boyhood dream of mine come true, but it is a far greater honor that one day I will be in heaven with God to enjoy Him forever.

How do I know that I will spend eternity with God in heaven? It goes back to the original discussion – Faith. The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is my faith in Jesus Christ’s work in my life that grants me eternal life with God. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s why the mission of this Foundation is “Faith, Family, and Others.” It is because our faith is at the heart of everything we are and everything we do.

We have not yet mentioned the idea of “Others” found in our Mission Statement. This word is an important one as well. Jesus commanded in one of His last recorded statements: “Therefore go and make disciples . . .” You may recall 2006 if you are a Cardinals fan. The season culminated with the first World Series Championship in St. Louis in 24 years. For many FANS, it was the highlight of their year. However, if you asked me about the pinnacle of 2006, you would probably be surprised to learn that winning the World Series or winning my first Gold Glove at first base was not the highlight moment of the season for me. My personal favorite moment during that season was seeing two of my friends and teammates come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That was the peak of my year! Why are “others” important to us? Because they are important to God. “Others” were important enough for Jesus to die on the cross for them; they are much more important than a World Series ring.

Read his complete statement HERE

The accolades are impressive, the statistics are staggering, the contributions to his community are heroic, but these are not the things that define Albert; what he stands for and who he ultimately serves sets Albert apart from the world in which he lives in. His true reward is beyond this place and he simply wants others to know that they can join him at his ultimate destination. That’s who Albert is and it's extremely fitting that he can call himself an "Angel."

December 8, 2011

The swagger returns to Anaheim

This is a defining moment for the Angels. Albert Pujols is a once-in-a-generation type of athlete and the impact he can make on a team, a community and baseball as a whole cannot be over-stated in my opinion.

Pujols’ signing with the Angels is stunning news. Take the time to really let it sink in for a bit.

Step away from this post; close your eyes for a few minutes and think about it.

Is your heart beating a little faster?

Yeah, I know just how you feel.

When I heard the news this morning, I was climbing into my car; where I turned on the radio and I heard a voice say “breaking news…” Had I been driving my vehicle I may have very well driven right off the road; instead, I literally ran back into my home to tell Cheryl, who was so overcome with joy tears began to run down her cheeks.

When the rumors first surfaced about the Angels interest in Pujols, I tried to dismiss it. I went to Cheryl and told her about the rumors early on, but both of us agreed we shouldn’t get our hopes up. We had been down this road before; with the likes of Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira, Carl Crawford, etc., etc.

She’d ask me every now and then if there was any news and every time I read something, I’d mention it – but every discussion ended with “let not get our hopes up.”

Even though we tried not to - we still found ourselves dreaming of the idea of Pujols coming to Anaheim. How could we not? This is what you do when you’re a baseball fan and this was Albert “The Machine” Pujols we were talking about.

I mean he’s been called everything from the “Babe Ruth of our generation” to “the best player in the game today.” When his career is complete – he will most likely rank among the greatest players to ever set foot on a field.

As we all know - the rumors wouldn’t go away and we were slowly getting sucked in.

Yesterday, we took a small step of faith in our own little way. We put on our Angels bracelets. Our idea was that maybe it would bring us luck (even though we aren’t superstitious). More than anything it was a small act of solidarity. I know it sounds like a silly gesture – but it was a small bonding moment for a husband and wife who spend so much time following the Angels.

We aren’t your every-day, run-of-the-mill fans. We devote a lot of time and energy to our favorite team and if you’ve spent any time on this blog, you’d know how true that is. Today is a great day on so many levels for us.

For the past several years we felt frustrated with the Angels inability to acquire an impact bat. We watched a team with championship quality pitching fall short time after time because as good as the pitching has been, it simply wasn’t enough.

All of that changed today.

The Angels have yet to win a game with Albert; let alone play a game, but the expectations just went through the roof.

And let’s just start calling him “Albert.” From this point on – he’s simply Albert; not Pujols, not Albert Pujols, but simply Albert. It just seems fitting.

When I broke the news to Cheryl about Albert coming to Anaheim, I said to her “he’s the best player in the game today and a good man.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here once again – we really want to like the players who wear the uniform for the team we cheer for. Albert makes that easy.

We know that we don’t have any control over who plays for the Angels, but when someone this great on and off the field comes to our team – it really has an impact on us.

At some point in time, I’ll get into all of that as it relates specifically to Albert, but today – today, we are simply overwhelmed with joy and trying to put our emotions into words isn’t easy.

When Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Angels prior to the 2004 season, it prompted Cheryl and me to buy season tickets. When Torii Hunter signed prior to the 2008 season, we couldn’t have been happier.

Today, I’m stunned and almost numb. The thought of being able to watch a ball player as a great as Albert on a daily basis is just incredible. I hope I don’t ever take it for granted. I want to enjoy every single moment and savor each memory along the way.

I feel blessed and very lucky today. I get to watch Albert again and again and again. Every time I watch the Angels, I will get to watch Albert. Somebody pinch me.

As I drove to work today I flipped from one national sports radio station to another via SiriusXM and it was surreal to hear the Angels being talked about on a national level. Clearly, it was a new day and as I said at the start of this post – a defining moment.

The national media was going nuts.

Some experts and prognosticators already have the Angels in the World Series. Some were already discussing play-off rotations (after all the Angels also signed C.J. Wilson) and likely matchups with everyone from the Yankees and Red Sox to the Tigers and Rangers were on the table.

It was crazy and sort of thrilling all at the same time. My Angels… the team I grew up watching and cheering for was the talk of the entire baseball world. I loved it and couldn’t get enough.

Don’t get me wrong – the Angels have a lot of work to do and a lot of games to play before we can even talk about how good they are. I’m not predicting anything – because quite frankly most predictions are foolish. Last year – most folks assumed we would see the Phillies and Red Sox in the World Series and we all know how that turned out.

Nothing is guaranteed and I want to keep that in mind. That doesn’t mean I won’t get my hopes up because you can count on that happening for sure. Again, this is what baseball fans do.

As great as this day is – it’s still not as great as that feeling we had in 2002 when the Angels won it all. Titles aren’t won in December and I know that as well as anyone – but the dream of a title just became a little more realistic today. The idea is tangible; the goal seems realistic, but the task will still be difficult.

Winning championships are never easy and that’s probably what makes them so special. It’s all about the journey and our journey just got a little more interesting – it’s the stuff memories are made of.

History may very well be on the horizon; in the mean time, the "swagger" is back in Anaheim.

Are you kidding me?

The news is true - the Angels have signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. If you've come here looking for a post from me, please be patient. I will have plenty to say - but just not yet. I need to absorb what happened before I can put my thoughts and emotions into words. This is epic and I want my words to be more than noise... so again - please stay tuned.

December 5, 2011

So long Jeff Mathis

There’s something great about waking up in the morning and knowing that Jeff Mathis will not be in the Angels lineup in 2012 and beyond (Jeff Mathis was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays).

You could say that such knowledge puts a smile on my face and a little extra pep in my step. You could say the air smells a little cleaner, the sun feels a little warmer and even the bird poop on my windshield looks like a little piece of art. Yes, life is just a little bit better overall.

The collective sigh of relief that Angels fans let out far and wide might have been a cause for the wind storm that hit parts of Pasadena, Monrovia, Arcadia, and beyond last week. Never has there been a trade that made Angels fans this happy and more importantly this relieved.

It’s a new day and the possibilities are endless. This blog will probably be a kinder, gentler place now that Mathis is gone. Now, if they could only get rid of that hideous “Buttercup” song… Then again, I guess you can’t win them all.

So, let’s take a look back and highlight the accomplishments of Jeff Mathis…

… And that about covers it.

In conclusion – let’s just say that I feel your joy Angels fans. Fellow fans emailed me with the news one after another… People I know couldn’t wait to share the good news. Heck, my wife’s cousin Larry, who is a Red Sox fan even sent a note. He remarked how “quick” the trade happened – to which I had to respond... It was a few years later than we wanted!

I’m not going to miss Jeff Mathis, the player. I don’t know Jeff Mathis the person; but I have to believe he too is a little relieved. He gets a fresh start; albeit, the Blue Jays have a very solid and very young (26 in January) catcher in J.P. Arenciba.

As for who Mathis was traded for… does anyone really care?

Christmas has come early and 2012 is looking pretty darn good. Jerry Dipoto, the new Angels’ GM is winning the hearts and minds of Angels fans everywhere with the moves he’s made thus far.

About 72 days till pitchers and catchers report.