WASHINGTON — Saying he was honored and humbled, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols on Saturday accepted an award for his charity work during a massive rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
“I want to thank God for giving me this platform as a baseball player,” Pujols said, standing in front of tens of thousands of people gathered for the “Restoring Honor” rally organized by talk-show host Glenn Beck.
Pujols was introduced by Cardinals manager Tony La Russa who scanned the crowd and gathered his thoughts before speaking. Among the speakers before La Russa and Pujols took the stage was former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
“Wow, what a view,” La Russa began.
La Russa spoke of Pujols’ baseball success, observing that “in 120 years of baseball, Albert’s first 10 years are historic.”
But the Cardinals’ manager noted that Pujols was getting the Hope Award in the Beck-sponsored rally for activities off the field.
“In reality, I think most of us would agree that real-life heroes are hard to find,” La Russa said.
After getting a bronze medal draped around his neck, Pujols thanked his family and those who help run the Pujols Family Foundation in St. Louis. The first baseman also talked about his work in the Dominican Republic.
“We can’t forget where we came from,” Pujols said.
At several points, the Cardinals’ slugger spoke of his faith.
“Twelve years ago, I made the best decision of my life, and that was following Jesus Christ,” he said.
The rally organized by Beck, a conservative talk show host with the Fox News channel, is being described as non-political.
Not everyone believed the event was not about politics. About 30 people gathered Saturday near the Stan Musial statue outside Busch Stadium to speak against La Russa and Pujols attending the Washington rally. The protest was organized by Metropolitan Organizations Strengthening and Empowering Society.
“I’m fed up that politics has to invade every aspect our lives,” said Chris Andoe, a Cardinals’ fan who carried several signs, including one that said, “I had a dream baseball wasn’t political,” a reference to King’s speech.
Andoe, of St. Louis, said he doesn’t believe La Russa’s claims that attending the rally was not a political act.
Ken McKoy, the executive director of the society, said it was hypocritical for anyone from the Cardinals’ organization to attend a rally with themes opposing government intervention when tax dollars helped fund construction of the stadium, an act he called “corporate welfare.”
Bill Lambrecht/St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)