Friday, March 4, 2011

Review of Pujols: More Than the Game

It was 1987.  I was six years old and watching the World Series, equipped with one of those cardboard pieces inside toilet paper as my microphone.  I was cheering on my favorite team the St. Louis Cardinals.  They lost.  I was devastated.  They broke my heart, and you don’t break the heart of a six year old boy. 

So I turned my affections to the Kansas City Royals.  They annually offer something the Cardinals never do—a lack of hope.  You know going into the season as a Royals fan that it will be a good season if you aren’t dead last and a remarkable season if you somehow win half the games. 

The Royals never get my hopes up, so my heart is never broken.  And year after year as I see the Royals plummet in the standings I take great joy in knowing that the St. Louis Cardinals will give tons of hope to people in our area only to break their hearts.  Poor suckers, they should have learned what I did when I was six.  (Maybe this also explains my love for the Cleveland Browns). 

As much as I enjoy rooting for the Royals I think I equally enjoy hating the Cardinals.  But one thing makes that difficult.  Rather, one person.  Albert Pujols.  I remember when he first came up and had an explosive rookie season, that I predicted he’d fizzle.  Yeah, I was wrong.  Pujols is a stud.  He’s also very likable.  And he also loves Jesus. 

Pujols is making the Cardinals more difficult for me to hate.  In fact, now that I live in Indiana and don’t have to hear so much about the Cardinals I may actually be okay with them winning a few games.  Or maybe Albert will leave the team after this year and I can cheer for Pujols and the Cardinals demise. 

After reading this excellent biography by Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth my respect for Pujols has grown immensely.  They do not attempt to paint him as many authors do Christian athletes; as so grounded in Jesus they should probably be pastoring churches.  Lamb and Ellsworth are honest about Pujols struggles in faith.  And I love that.  They don’t pretend that just because Pujols is a stud athlete that he is also perfect in the faith.  He’s a believer that struggles with sin just like the rest of us. 

They do labor to show that one of those sins that Pujols struggles with is NOT the use of PED’s.  It was very wise of Pujols’ biographers to put this in the book.  Albert truly is a hitting machine.  And with statistics likes his in the steroid era regardless of his innocence people will forever point a finger and want to put an asterisk by every stat in this era.  Lamb and Ellsworth give twenty convincing reasons why Pujols stats should stand as legit. 

I also appreciate how Lamb and Ellsworth occasionally will use Pujols story to share the Christian faith.  Take this section for example:

“Every Christian is to be a witness for Christ.  When Albert and Dee Dee share Christ, they are not doing something reserved only for the so-called celebrities of the faith…Telling others about Jesus is a stewardship and responsibility embraced by the Pujolses.” (137)

All in all this is a good read.  I have read many reviews that are frustrated with the continual use of statistics and baseball stories.  I’m not sure what they thought they were signing up for, but Albert IS a baseball player and that is his platform.  Just as you would expect a biography of a person engaged in foreign missions to include that activity, you should expect a biography on a baseball player to have plenty of baseball. 

This book will be a great, and enlightening, read for every baseball fan.  Believers that do not like baseball probably will not get a ton out of it, but this is a great book to put in the hands of young men and women that are aspiring athletes.  Pujols is a great man, a great athlete, and a humble follower of Jesus.  I am glad that Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth have written this book.  Great job, fellas. 

You can buy your copy of Pujols: More Than the Game for 16.49.  Or if you are cool like me and get a free copy from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a review (that’s my not-so-creative way of saying I got this book for free from the publisher, didn’t have to give a positive review, but I liked the book so I did).

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