More than 20 years after his first MLB game, Albert Pujols is still giving thanks.
The 42-year-old future Hall of Fame first baseman called it a career last week after his St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Philadelphia Phillies in the best-of-three National League wild card series.
Pujols, who played for the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers in addition to 12 seasons with the Cardinals, announced his retirement on Oct. 8, giving glory to God for his long and illustrious career.
"All the glory goes to the Lord, not just me," he said in a post-game interview. "He opened the door for me to come here. All I did, even through my struggles, was just stay faithful and strong and continue to trust my process that it might work out. I waited for my opportunity.
“That came, and I just took advantage and did whatever I had to do to help this organization win."
After an abysmal start to the season in which he hit below .200 with just four home runs, Pujols persevered at the plate and soon found his swing, earning a spot in the Home Run Derby and ultimately a place in history: he joined the “700 Club” with his 700th home run, joining the likes of baseball legends Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
When it was all over, Pujols ended up with 703 career home runs and passed Ruth to become No. 2 on the all-time RBI list with 2,218.
Despite reaching that career summit, Pujols told MLB.com at one point, he seriously considered retiring mid-season over his struggles at the plate.
“When you have good people around you, and they are encouraging you, and you realize that God has opened so many doors for you, man, it puts things back into perspective," said Pujols. "I decided, 'I'm going to stick with it.'
“I knew sooner or later it was going to come and turn around for me because it can't be like it was all year long."
And turn around it did, as Pujols raised his batting average up to .314 and hit 20 home runs, paving the way for his historic 700th homer before walking away from the game he has played for over two decades.
That turnaround, Pujols said, was a gift from above.
"It did hit me really hard, because I had felt that weight to deliver for everyone," he told MLB.com. "God has given me this talent and the joy for the game, and I was emotional because there were so many people supporting me and pushing me. They are people who love me and have always supported my career, and I wanted to do it for them."
A 3-time MVP winner and two-time World Series champ, as well as one of the best hitters to ever play the game, Pujols has never shied from sharing his faith on and off the field.
In 2013, Pujols debuted his video for “I Am Second” at Angel Stadium, in which he shared his personal journey from the Dominican Republic to the MLB and what personal legacy he hopes to leave beyond baseball
"[The short film] is a great opportunity to now see what I do off the field and who I represent — and what is the most important thing in my life and that is my relationship with Jesus Christ," Pujols told reporters at the time.
In the video, Pujols says, "I don't want people to remember me as just a baseball player. To me, off the field is more important than what I do on the field.
“Sure, I want to be a great baseball player, but I also wanted to be a Godly daddy and husband, setting an example for my kids. If you would ask me this 20 years ago, I would have told you that I thought it was about me."
Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com.