AP Photo

Catching up with Albert Pujols

After being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999, Albert Pujols made his Major League Baseball debut during the 2001 season, and now ranks among the leading home run hitters in baseball history. The first baseman holds many awards, including one World Series title, three Most Valuable Player awards and five Silver Slugger awards.

Pujols' career got underway in the early 1990s after migrating from his native hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Independence, Mo. It was in this small Midwest town where Pujols began his history-making career while playing high school and American Legion baseball. One memorable accomplishment was during an American Legion Wood Bat Invitational where Pujols, wearing the Legion uniform from Hi-Boy Drive/Post 340, hit the longest home run in the tournament's history. However, the 450-foot shot only marked the beginning of Pujols' journey to creating MLB history.

By May 13 of the 2006 baseball season, Pujols had hit 19 home runs, making him the fastest player in MLB history to do so, and he's the first player in MLB history to hit 30 home runs in each of his nine seasons. And in 2005, Pujols became the first St. Louis Cardinal since 1985 to receive an MVP.

Moreover, the right-handed batter and thrower, who hits with different bats against left-handed and right-handed pitchers, isn't lacking recognition when it comes to his great accomplishments. Just recently, he was selected as the decade's greatest player by ESPN.com. Pujols attributes this recognition and all of his satisfying success to both his family and faith in God.

Understandably, Pujols' list of honors don't come as a surprise, considering he ended the 2009 season with a .327 batting average, 47 home runs and 135 runs batted in. And as he preps for another award-winning season, the baseball icon took time away from practice to speak with The American Legion.

Q: How did you get involved in American Legion Baseball while living in Independence, Mo.?

A: A friend of mine, Chris Franka, invited me to play on the team his father coaches.

Q: What inspired you to start the Pujols Family Foundation, and how has the foundation inspired you as an MLB player?

A: The Pujols Family foundation was a God-inspired idea. My wife, Deidre, and I wanted a way to connect more personally with the St. Louis community. In doing so, we have not only been a partner to the community of those who live with Down syndrome but also to the people of the Dominican Republic. Sharing our faith and encouraging and teaching are just of the few things that we get excited about.

Q: Are you doing anything in your native hometown, Santo Domingo, to promote baseball?

A: Through the Pujols Family Foundation, we have been able to sponsor six teams in Batey communities. The people in these communities are impoverished but have the most incredible love for baseball.

Q: During a game last August, you came to the aid of a fan who fell onto the field in pursuit of a foul ball. What made you quickly come to the fan's rescue?

A: I didn't really have time to think of anything else to do but to react and respond to what I saw. In that moment, I saw a man who appeared to have a serious injury. I just wanted to help him. I wasn't looking for heroism.

Q: You seem to have a clear idea of how a pitcher will throw to you and are able to make quick adjustments accordingly. How does this approach impact your swing?

A: The game is about making adjustments, and I have to be open to doing that when a pitcher seems to be throwing different pitches to me. It is more about being consistent with my swing.

Q: What types of things help you continue improving your fielding?

A: The most basic drills are the ones that I always keep in my practice time, such as taking ground balls and listening to new things from the coaches.

Q: What do you focus on during your offseason?

A: My focus is always my family, and I make sure I take time off from training to relax and let my body recover from the long season. I also enjoy getting in a game of golf now and then.

Q: How do you feel to be ranked among the leading home-run hitters in MLB?

A: I never thought as a young boy that I was going to be so successful so quickly. God has taken me to places in my baseball career that are out of this world. I am humbled that he chose me to do all these amazing things on and off the field.

Q: What success do you attribute to being selected by ESPN.com as the greatest player of the decade?

A: I am honored to be recognized by ESPN with an award like "player of the decade." In an era of incredible baseball players, to stand out and be noticed like that I have to again give all the glory to God.

Q: Where is your motivation derived from?

A: I am motivated by my faith and my family. I want to do my best and be a positive example for others.

Q: Up to this point, what has been your greatest accomplishment?

A: My greatest accomplishment is having a great family. On the field any accomplishment is worthy to be celebrated.