Sunday, April 10, 2011

Albert Pujols: Lessons for Educators, Students, and Others


"Albert has shown us many things since coming to America. How to be a great baseball player is just one of them." Bob Simon of CBS "60 Minutes" concluded his profile of St. Louis Cardinal slugger Albert Pujols with these words. 

Full disclosure:  Pujols is my favorite player. When I discuss baseball with students and the conversation turns toward our favorite team, I say, "My father raised me right. My favorite team is the St. Louis Cardinals." 

Pujols's accomplishments on the diamond put him among the best baseball players of all time:  "he has never hit less than .300, never had less than 30 home runs, and never had fewer than 100 RBIs. No player in baseball's long history has ever achieved that in his first ten seasons." 

So what does Albert Pujols's career show students and teachers? The "60 Minutes" story offers some answers, which "60 Minutes: Overtime" extends:  

Work Counts as Much as Talent: Sure Pujols has phenomenal talent, but his work ethic deserves credit for putting him in the upper echelon of baseball greats. Pujols "takes 15 to 20 thousand practice swings a year," says "60 Minutes." 

Being Driven Produces Results: When asked what makes him work so hard, Pujols describes his anger at being drafted in the 13th round. 

Everybody Deserves a Chance: Pujols's foundation sponsors a prom for teens with down syndrome. His   daughter Isabella has down syndrome. He dances with the prom-goers through the night.

Loyalty counts: The St. Louis Cardinals took a chance on Pujols, drafting him in the 13th round, behind 401 players, in 1999. Pujols says he wants to be a Cardinal forever. 

Pay your debts: His wife Dierdre describes the family's financial woes in Pujols's early career, yet he refused to file bankruptcy. 

Reputation and Name Count: Pujols respects baseball and leads an exemplary life free of steroids and substance abuse, including using tobacco and alcohol. 

Actions Speak for You: Rather than seeking photo ops and celebrity, Pujols practices humility. He even visited Brandon, a sick boy, and gave him the bat he used to hit his 400th career home run. 

"There's a search for examples of excellence," says Cardinal Manager Tony LaRussa, and Pujols is that example. 

One final thought: Go Cards! 

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