Pujols statue unveiled outside star’s restaurant
AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) – With hundreds of fans cheering and many urging him to stay, St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols watched the unveiling of a 10-foot statue of himself Wednesday and then said he wasn’t sure where he would wind up next season.
Pujols did not mention free agency during his speech as he stood near the 10-foot, 1,100-pound bronze likeness of himself outside his restaurant. He dodged the issue later with reporters.
“Just like my wife says, ‘We’re going to be praying about it and whenever the time comes we’ll make that decision,”‘ Pujols said.
One reporter noted that “you can’t pack the statue with you,” and wondered if the Pujols Family Foundation would remain in St. Louis if Pujols signed elsewhere.
“Hopefully I don’t have to make that decision,” Pujols said. “We’re just going to see where God takes us. I don’t want to get ahead of God’s plan and say, ‘Oh, we’re going to be here,’ and then something happens and I look bad. Whether it’s here or wherever, I believe our foundation is going to help the city of St. Louis.”
The 31-year-old Pujols is a free agent for the first time after spending his first 11 major league seasons with the Cardinals. The two sides did not discuss a contract extension during the season, which ended with a World Series championship last week.
Funds for the statue were provided by an anonymous donor two years ago. The sculpture has religious overtones depicting a familiar pose with Pujols raising his arms skyward while crossing home plate. It was made by Harry Weber and is similar to Weber’s work on Cardinals Hall of Famers outside Busch Stadium. One of the Hall of Famers, Lou Brock, attended the ceremony with his wife.
“There’s going to be a lot of people asking, ‘Well, why is he not swinging the bat?”‘ Pujols told the crowd during his speech. “That’s to remind me it’s not about me, but it’s about Jesus Christ who gave his life so we can have eternal life. It’s really easy to lose focus when you have millions of people telling you how great you are.”
There are no statues of Pujols outside Busch Stadium, at least not yet. Only the team’s Hall of Famers are honored, and there are two Stan Musial statues.
“That statue is unbelievable,” said Pujols’ wife, Deirdre. “For somebody to even want to do something like this, it’s pretty humbling.”
“Unbelievable job,” Albert Pujols said. “Look at that!”
The Cardinals won their second World Series of the Pujols era on Friday. Pujols said the days since have been “probably the best week of my life.”
Pujols said he spoke earlier Wednesday with manager Tony La Russa, who retired this week after 16 seasons with the Cardinals and 33 years overall. He said La Russa was “kind of down.”
“He wanted to make sure I was OK, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m all right,”‘ he said. “I was asking, ‘Are you OK?’ What a way to go out.”
Pujols said La Russa has been a father figure for him.
“He’s been a mentor the last 11 years,” Pujols said. “Just because he’s not going to be here to manage, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop that relationship.”