TEMPE, Ariz. – Albert Pujols had a busy weekend. On Friday, he was in New York at the United Nations to receive an award. On Saturday, he played in a "B'' game on a back field at the Los Angeles Angels' complex, and Sunday, he tuned up for the season by going 3 for 3, including his first spring home run.
When Pujols, a former Fort Osage High School star, eventually retires from baseball, he wants to be remembered more for what he's done off the playing field rather than his monster home runs.
On Friday, the U.N. Women for Peace Association presented its Humanitarian Award to Pujols, wife Deidre and their "Strike Out Slavery" anti-human trafficking group. The Pujols have devoted themselves to fighting human trafficking in the U.S. and around the world.
"It was an opportunity to receive an award but it's an award that I share with so many people," Pujols said. "We are just one of the groups of so many people who are fighting against human trafficking. To be honored like that is great but it's something that we share with a lot of people in our lives. It was really unique and really an honor to be there."
Pujols, 39, enters his 19th season with 3,082 hits and 633 home runs but ask him what's important once his playing days are over and it has nothing to do with baseball.
"I consider myself blessed and fortunate to use this platform that God has given me in baseball for a moment like this," Pujols said. "It's more than the game. I think at the end of the day, I want to be remembered as a strong valued guy who loves the Lord, loves his family, and will do whatever it takes for the community.
"We allow ourselves to change and to help other people in need and I think that's the platform that we should use as celebrities, as baseball players, as actors, basketball, whatever sport you play," he said. "I think there's more than the sport that you play and we are blessed and we have been given this gift. At the end of the day, I want God to look at me and say, 'Well done.' I don't want him to say, 'What have you done with the gift that I gave you?'"
At least four Major League teams (the Angels, Nationals, Mets and Royals) will host events this season to raise awareness of human trafficking in connection with the Pujols' "Strike Out Slavery" organization. It's a step.
The three-time Most Valuable Player has his own Pujols Family Foundation, which makes mission trips to the Dominican Republic as well as works with children who have Downs syndrome. The "Strike Out Slavery" group is separate from the foundation. All of the efforts are important to Pujols.
"I can't tell you when I'm done playing what I'm going to do because I really don't think about the future," Pujols said.
Fans don't often see 10-time All-Star players on a back field in an early morning "B'' game. For Pujols, it made sense.
"I'm at this point that as a veteran guy, you know what you need to do to get ready for whenever the season opens," he said. "I also don't want to screw up the plans that the manager has – this gives him an opportunity to see other guys."
Pujols wants to make a difference on the field and off it.
"He's a once in a lifetime player and guy," Angels teammate David Fletcher said.