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In those early years Albert would babysit Isabella while Dee Dee worked one of her three jobs. She got him a job in a pizzeria, and he would dutifully give her every penny he made. When Pujols was drafted so low, he briefly considered giving up baseball and getting a job so he could help support Dee Dee and Isabella. After his one season in the minors he got a part-time catering job at a Kansas City--area country club. "We didn't have any money," says Albert. "It was hard." They spent $150 on their wedding. Their honeymoon was in Peoria, Ill., Albert's first minor league stop.
This is a common tale—the story of a young couple trying to make it in baseball—but what strikes Dee Dee is how Albert seemed entirely driven to be something more than just a baseball star. He did not drink. He would not even be in the same room as a smoker. He did not get tattoos. He never wore an earring. He wasn't interested in going out with the boys. He played baseball, and he went to church, and that seemed about all that interested him.
"I make fun of him all the time," Dee Dee says. "It's like he's as pure a guy as you could possibly get."
And that's why she really wants people to believe in her husband, the way she believes in him. In 2008 Pujols won the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to the major league player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball." Clemente, of course, died in a plane crash in 1972 while bringing supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua. Pujols, a two-time National League MVP, says it is the most meaningful award he has ever won, and in his speech he said that if he could ask one question of the great Clemente, it would not be about his brilliant arm, or how he paved the way for Latin American players, or even about his prodigious hitting. No, Pujols said, his one question would be, "Why did you go?"
And Pujols said, "I think I know the answer. He felt a responsibility. I feel that responsibility too."
Together, through the Pujols Family Foundation, Albert and Dee Dee have worked to raise money and the spirits of people with Down syndrome. Together they have brought eye doctors and dentists and beds to villages in the Dominican Republic—Dee Dee remembers presenting beds to a mother of five who had been sleeping on straw and filth and the tears in the woman's eyes because she had never been given something new. She remembers the tears in Albert's eyes too.
"If he ever got involved in that [steroid] stuff, I would be the first one to kill him," Dee Dee says suddenly.
Albert has constantly denied using steroids. His reasoning has stayed consistent: "I fear God too much to do anything stupid like that." He also knows that more or less every player has denied using steroids. "We are under a dark cloud," he says. "Nobody believes anything [players say]."
So how can you be a baseball hero in today's era?
"You know how I want people to remember me?" Pujols asks. "I don't want to be remembered as the best baseball player. I want to be remembered as a great guy who loved the Lord, loved to serve the community and who gave back. That's the guy I want to be remembered as when I'm done wearing this uniform. That's from the bottom of my heart."