The record books will show the Washington Nationals’ (at least for now) Juan Soto won Major League Baseball’s 2022 Home Run Derby over Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners during All-Star Game festivities at Dodger Stadium. What the record books won’t show is the name of the man who was the evening’s true winner.
That would be the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols, competing in his fifth Home Run Derby since 2014, and who’s making his final appearance as an All-Star. While Pujols may be “old” (at age 42), he wasn’t too old to beat the number one seed, Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber.
During that contest, he was able to experience a moment few of us ever do – the unrestrained showing of respect and admiration from his peers.
Albert Pujols was honored by all who came.
It was a great moment👏
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 19, 2022
In his career’s twilight, Albert Pujols came to play. His statistics show that he had little to prove. There were 3,333 hits and 685 home runs. Three MVP Awards. 11-time All-Star. An batting title. Two Golden Glove awards. Tri-time MLB Player and Team of the Year. Six Silver Slugger awards. Two world championships. With a resume like that, most players wouldn’t bother coming out of the dugout to go up against the young lion-ripped rippers in a home run contest. More accurately, most players wouldn’t bother leaving the house during the All-Star break, instead preferring to spend their time practicing their Hall of Fame induction speech. Many players. Albert Pujols isn’t most players.
Try visiting albertpujols.com, and you’ll quickly discover there is no such site. Instead, the site of the Pujols Family Foundation will take you to your destination, with its mission clearly stated on the landing page.
Pujols Family Foundation, a non-profit national agency founded in 2005 to serve God and families by our acts, deeds, and examples. This foundation was established in 2005 to aid those with Down syndrome at home, and also to make a difference in the lives for the poor in Dominican Republic.
That’s it. No stats, no highlight reels. All you need to know is how people are doing.
Pujols is a mystery. Pujols can sometimes be very self-effacing.
Pujols’s intensity has been almost uncontrollable throughout his entire career. This has made him revered and feared, yet also kept at arm’s length by many fans who, while acknowledging his greatness, have never warmed up to a player nicknamed “The Machine.” Even now, in his final season, he is receiving muted, if any, recognition as he visits the opponent’s stadiums for the final time.
Everything changed on Monday, August 18Th when Pujols, for one shining moment, stood athwart time’s relentless march and ordered it to stop. Matched in the Home Run Derby’s first round against Schwarber, Pujols started slowly. There was then a moment of magic. ESPN reports:
Heading into his 30-second bonus time in the opening round, while stuck on 10 home runs and seemingly lagging, Pujols stepped out of the batter’s box to take a breath. He was quickly met by a large crowd. The future Hall of Famer was surrounded by players at Dodger Stadium and started to cheer. Soto would defeat Pujols later in Round 2. He fanned Pujols with his cap. Pujols’ oldest son, A.J., watched from nearby in tears. As Pujols closes his last season of baseball, it was a natural moment of gratitude. Many who made up that semicircle were Dominican teammates who worshipped him as a child. As they rose to stardom, each of them received advice from Pujols throughout the years.
The semi-finals saw Pujols losing to Soto, one homer shy of defeating Schwarber. The final round would have been legendary if Pujols had reached it, but Pujols prevailed.
For a brilliant moment, Albert Pujols revealed there’s life in the old bones yet. Many stars of the Dominican Republic including two Home Run Derby winners were present to support their hero. Pujols helped create a new generation of Dominican players such as Soto, Dominican-by-heritage Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Fernando Tatis Jr., whose skill and exuberance have brought a new generation of fans into the baseball fold. Pujols will long have a place in baseball fans’ hearts for this and his brilliance. In the 2022 Home Run Derby, he added to his achievements one more moment of showing the kids how it’s done.