Albert Pujols might no longer be the great player that he was with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he is still the same great person he’s always been.
That was clear after the Los Angeles Angels finished a game Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays. While Pujols’ teammates were celebrating a win on the diamond, the three-time MVP veered off toward the stands at Rogers Centre to meet with a young fan.
The fan, a boy with Down syndrome, was wearing a Pujols jersey and held out a marker indicating that he wanted the slugger to sign his jersey.
But instead of just signing the boy’s jersey, Pujols took off his own jersey, signed it and appeared to write a personal message on it as well before giving it to the young man.
Pujols then also signed the fan’s jersey as well and posed for a picture with him, to the applause of onlookers.
My son with Down Syndrome theee nights ago. pic.twitter.com/w00yagPtjK
— Joe Squarini (@JoeBone546) June 21, 2019
Pujols’ stepdaughter, Isabella, was born with Down syndrome, and he has long had a connection with people who have the disorder.
While he was still with the Cardinals, Pujols established the Pujols Family Foundation, a nonprofit whose primary mission is to provide for those with genetic disorders such as Down syndrome.
“It was never about the uniform he wore,” Todd Perry, executive director of the Pujols Family Foundation, told MLB.com. “It was never about who he played for, or if he played baseball at all. This was about the authenticity of having a child with Down syndrome, understanding the gaps and holes in services, and knowing he could do something about it.”
“At the end of the day, he is a dad that has a child with Down syndrome,” said Jen Teemer, director of programming and mission advancement for the foundation. “I think about how this girl has become the inspiration for serving so many families. The lives that are forever changed because of her is so amazing.”
According to MLB.com, the foundation has roughly 125 annual events and programs all over the United States and in other countries, including his homeland of the Dominican Republic.
The events celebrate and honor individuals with Down syndrome by enriching the lives of them and their families.
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I had a great time in Mexico today with a group of special kids! Again, I take a moment to thank God for the life of my daughter Isabella for giving our family a voice to love people with Down syndrome in a special way! ¡hoy me pasé un buen rato en méxico con un grupo de niños especiales! De nuevo, tomo un momento para agradecer a dios por la vida de mi hija Isabella por darle a nuestra familia una voz para amar a la gente con síndrome de down de una manera especial! @pujolsfound @mlb_players @mlb #mexico #monterey #baseballcamp
Teemer said about 60 percent of the foundation’s programs remain in St. Louis, and Pujols returns to the city during the offseason to actively participate in the events.
For the first time in his MLB career, Pujols will get to return to St. Louis during the season as a visitor Friday night.
Since his last game with the Cardinals in 2011, he has played just six games against his original team, and they were all in Los Angeles.
Pujols likely will receive a hero’s welcome at Busch Stadium.
“I think it’ll be pretty emotional,” he said.
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