Pujols continues charity presence in St. Louis
Current, former teammates help with Pujols Family Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic
ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols may have moved his baseball career to Southern California, but the former Cardinals first baseman still calls St. Louis home.
The Pujols Family Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic, hosted by Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday since Pujols signed with the Angels after the 2011 season, was held Monday at Meadowbrook Country Club in Ballwin, Mo., just outside the city where Pujols played his first 11 years of professional baseball.
"Just because I'm playing somewhere else doesn't mean I'm going to pack everything and get out of here," Pujols said. "This is our [foundation] headquarters here in St. Louis. This is always going to be a special place for me."
Pujols and several of his Angels teammates, including last season's American League MVP Award runner-up Mike Trout, flew in late Sunday night and early Monday morning after their evening game against the Red Sox in Anaheim.
In addition to Holliday, many current Cardinals were also in attendance, including Adam Wainwright, Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Carlos Beltran and Seth Maness, as well as manager Mike Matheny, third-base coach Jose Oquendo and general manager John Mozeliak.
"I think the Pujols Foundation has done great things," Holliday said. "He asked me to continue to help, and it's a great cause. They've done wonderful things all around the world."
Pujols and his wife, Deidre, founded the Pujols Family Foundation in 2005. The foundation promotes awareness and raises funds for children who live with Down syndrome, children with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses and impoverished children in the Dominican Republic, where Pujols was born. Pujols and his wife have five children, including Deidre's daughter from a previous marriage, Isabella, who has Down syndrome.
"I give God all the credit and all the glory," Pujols said. "He blessed us with Isabella, who got us involved in the first place with the Down Syndrome Association of St. Louis. If it wasn't for her, and the blessings that God has provided us, we couldn't be here today. … I'm going to continue serving not just on the field, but off the field, because I believe at the end of the day, that's what it's all about."
While most of the players and team staff took to the course, Pujols, Holliday and Matheny opted to observe rather than swinging the club. Pujols and Matheny passed on the round of 18 due to knee and back concerns, while Holliday simply prefers swinging a bat.
"It seems as though the stationary ball would be easier, but from what I experienced, it's really not quite the case for me," Holliday joked.
Matheny, who missed time in March with surgery to repair a ruptured disk in his back, was told he may never be able to golf again.
"Which is just enough to make me want to go golf," the Cardinals' skipper said, tongue in cheek. "But, you know, I really don't need the aggravation. It's a beautiful day. I just figured, 'Why ruin that with a golf ball?'"
Pujols didn't leave St. Louis on the best of terms. Fresh off a World Series victory with the Cardinals, the veteran slugger turned down an offer to remain with the club that drafted him in 1999 to sign a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Angels. Despite the rift on the business side, Mozeliak said he and Pujols still have an amiable relationship.
"Obviously it's changed, but I would imagine it's still friendly," Mozeliak said. "We have seen each other at different events; to me, we still have a lot of history together. I'm very grateful for my relationship and my time with him. I think it really is about moving forward, and hopefully that's how he sees it as well."
Matheny, a former teammate of Pujols', said he hoped fundraising and community events like the golf tournament will help change the public perception of Pujols in the eyes of the St. Louis fans still bitter over his exit.
"I do believe that time will heal all this," Matheny said. "The business side of baseball, I think, clouds things up sometimes for everybody, but you can't get away from the fact that these are people that are investing their time and their resources and their platform to making a difference in our community. Now with him being [in Anaheim], I think that just says volumes about the kind of person he is."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.