Albert Pujols: A superstar off and on the field

Bob Simon reports on the player's incredible rise on the field and his charitable work

We're going to tell you about one of the best baseball players who ever lived - Albert Pujols, first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.

This is what he has done in his first ten years in the Major Leagues: he has never hit below .300, he has never hit fewer than 30 home runs and he has never knocked in fewer than 100 runs. No one in the history of Major League Baseball has ever done that in their first ten seasons - not Babe Ruth, not Joe DiMaggio, not Ted Williams.

On the road with Albert Pujols
Producer Draggan Mihailovich takes you behind the scenes with slugger Albert Pujols, perhaps the best player in baseball history.

Pujols, a native of the Dominican Republic, is now the idol in the baseball-crazy city of St. Louis. But what we found most impressive about Pujols can't be found between the lines of chalk on a baseball field, as we discovered one night in St. Louis at an event where you would not expect to see the game's superstar.

Photos: Albert Pujols

Last October, they rolled out the red carpet for a gala. But the guest of honor was not Pujols. This was a night for teenagers with Down syndrome, there for an annual prom put on by the Pujols Family Foundation.

And when Pujols and his wife Deidre arrived, that's when the party really began.

"They're not only dancing. They're dressed to the hilt, aren't they? Guys in tuxedos," correspondent Bob Simon observed.

"Yeah," Pujols said, smiling broadly. "Tuxedo, nice, nice dress. It's almost like they wanna go all night long until the next day. They don't want the night to be over, you know?"

And neither did Pujols: every kid wanted to dance with him, and he never said no. By the end of the evening, he looked like he had just finished a doubleheader in August.

Extra: Will Pujols stay with the Cardinals?
Extra: What makes Pujols a great hitter?
Extra: Pujols, ten years later

"Must be the highlight of the year for them," Simon remarked.

"Yeah. And for me too. I mean, any time I'm around them, I enjoy them and have a great time," he said.

Deidre's daughter Isabella is the reason Pujols got involved with Down syndrome.

Pujols emigrated to America from the Dominican Republic when he was 16; he met Deidre in Kansas City two years later. Right away, she told him she had an infant daughter, Isabella, who had Down syndrome.

"And I think he was like, almost in tears. Like, he just felt bad, because, you know, when you look at a child who isn't quite what the rest of the world would expect, it can be heartbreaking, but he didn't care," she remembered.

"When Deidre first told you, you didn't hesitate?" Simon asked.

"No, I say never in my mind cross and say, 'Oh, man, I probably stay away,' you know? No," Pujols said.

Pujols was still in high school. "I was still in school, I was the babysitter. And I love to be around her, and those are memories, you know, that you will never forget," he said.

Pujols told Simon he considers Isabella his daughter. "She's my little girl, my big girl right now, you know, she's 13 years old. And you know, she's normal to us. She can do anything," he said.

It was in high school in Kansas City that Pujols realized he could do anything, too: he could bash baseballs like no one else.

"Back then, in high school, were pitchers already afraid to throw good balls at you?" Simon asked.

"Yeah," Pujols replied.

He is so proud of his school career, he wanted us to look at his scrapbook - here was a player who could expect to be picked in the first few rounds of the 1999 Major League draft.

But it didn't happen.

"I mean, the rounds were going by and he still hadn't gotten picked. And when he got the call that, that he had gotten drafted in the 13th round, he was devastated, and he cried like a baby. And he was heartbroken," Deidre remembered.

Four hundred and one players were selected ahead of Pujols. "I was crying and, you know, I wanted to quit baseball," he told Simon.

It was the St. Louis Cardinals who gave him a reluctant nod and a small signing bonus. They sent him to their franchise in Peoria, Ill., a minor team in a minor league.

"When I was in Peoria for four and a half months, I got paid $252 with 50 cents," Pujols remembered.

That was his paycheck every two weeks. Deidre kept supporting him, but they were drowning in debt. "There were times we'd have these conversations, I think I need to file for bankruptcy. I don't know how I'll ever get this paid off. And Albert was like, 'No, don't do it yet.' His, his exact words were, 'Let's see what happens with my baseball,'" she remembered.

Produced by Draggan Mihailovich

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