St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols recently joined the growing number of foreign-born Major Leaguers who have become American citizens. (Pujols grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved to the Kansas City area when he was 16.) These players take the oath for different reasons, not all of them noble or patriotic – and not that different from our own ancestors, or ourselves. But this was clearly not a check-the-box exercise for Pujols. He aced the citizenship test. "He even answered a bunch of additional questions and gave us more answers than we asked," the local customs and immigration officer reported. "He clenched his fist and said, I got 100 percent! He just had a grin from ear to ear. He was thrilled to become a citizen."
From what I know of the test, it’s not exactly as tough as Peter Schramm’s U.S. government exam at Ashland, but that’s not the point. The attitude was typical of Pujols; it didnt matter to him if the test was a fastball or a curve. He probably thinks he can bat 1.000, too. He was a lightly-regarded player coming out of junior college who worked himself into becoming a right-handed Ted Williams – with power, average, few strikeouts, a great clutch hitter, league MVP. When he came to the major leagues he really didn’t have a position in the field and bounced around at third base and the outfield, perhaps marked for eventual DH duty in the American League. Instead he worked himself into a Gold Glove winning first baseman.
He isn’t the most gregarious person with the media. He comes across a bit surly at times; not Barry Bonds surly, just the character of a man who wants to focus on his business and his family. Don’t get caught up with that. During baseball season, if I’m watching another game, I try to anticipate when Pujols might come to bat so I can switch over in time to see him. The same way I would want to see Ted Williams, another perfectionist. If hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports – arguable, but it’s a serious argument – you should make it a point to see the man who eventually may walk down the street and have it said about him, “There goes the best who ever lived.” And an American, to boot.