José Alberto Pujols Alcántara was born January 16, 1980, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Albert moved to the United States in 1996, and at the age of 16, attended Fort Osage High School in Independence, Missouri. While there, Albert was twice awarded all-state honors in baseball. He earned a baseball scholarship and attended Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City where he played one year before being selected in the 13th round of the 1999 free agent draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
After spending only one full season in the minor leagues, Albert stormed onto the big league scene in 2001, capturing National League Rookie of the Year honors unanimously that year. He set NL rookie records for RBI, total bases and base hits and batted .329 with 37 HRs and 130 RBI.
In 2002, Albert batted .314 with 34 HRs and 127 RBI and finished as runner-up for the NL Most Valuable Player award. Since his rookie season, Pujols has never failed to finish outside the top four in MVP voting.
Albert won his first batting title in 2003 with a .359 mark, also leading the league in hits, runs scored and doubles. He again finished second in the NL MVP voting.
In 2004, Pujols led the Cardinals into the teams first World series since 1987. That year, St. Louis had the best record in baseball and Pujols, who hit .331 with 123 RBI and a career-high 46 HRs during the regular season, was named MVP of the NLCS.
Albert captured the first of his two National League Most Valuable Player awards in 2005. He finished the season among the NL's top five in all three Triple Crown categories. One of the defining moments in his career took place in the postseason that year during Game 5 of the NLCS. Facing elimination against Houston, Pujols hit a dramatic two-out, three-run ninth-inning homer off Astros closer Brad Lidge to give St. Louis a dramatic come-from-behind victory at Minute Maid Park.
As significantly that year, Albert and his wife, Deidre, announced the formation of the Pujols Family Foundation.
In 2006, Albert began the season establishing a new Major League record for most home runs hit in the month of April, 14. Just over a month later, an injury placed him on the disabled list for the first time in his career. At that point, June 3, Albert already had 25 HRs and 65 RBI. Battling injuries the remainder of the season, Pujols finished with a .331 average, a .431 on-base percentage and a .671 slugging percentage. He finished second in the league in HRs with 49 and RBI with 137 and was, once again, runner-up in the MVP voting.
The Cardinals limped into post season play that year with a record just over .500, but thanks in great part to Pujols leadership, the Cardinals caught fire, beating the New York Mets in a dramatic seven-game NLCS and then capturing the franchises 10th World Series title, beating the Detroit Tigers in five games. And, on top of his many offensive achievements in 2006, that year also saw the Redbird first baseman capture his first Gold Glove Award.
In 2007, Albert earned his sixth straight trip to the All Star Game, finishing the season with a .327 average, 32 HRs and 103 RBI, marking the first time in baseball history a player had surpassed .300/30HR/100RBI for seven consecutive seasons at the beginning of a career.
Albert won his second Most Valuable Player award at the end of the 2008 season. In addition to his usual numbers with 30+ HRs/.300+ avg./100+ RBI, Albert also achieved two milestone accomplishments during that year. He clubbed his 300th career home run on July 4, and his 1,500th career hit on August 30. Following the 2008 campaign, Pujols became the second player in history to win the MVP and Roberto Clemente Award, the latter given for accomplishments off the baseball field, in the same year.