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Associated Press (Inset: Liz Sullivan/Spash News/Newscom)

Holy hitter

Sports | Albert Pujols loves baseball - and Jesus

Issue: "Ghost streets," Feb. 27, 2010

ST. LOUIS-Standing before 500 men and boys, St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols spoke about being satisfied in Jesus Christ as part of "Manly Night" Jan. 16 at Lafayette Senior High School.

"As a Christian, I am called to live a holy life," Pujols said. "My standard for living is set by God, not by the world. I am responsible for growing and sharing the gospel."

The annual program, sponsored by West County Community Church, is an evangelistic event that features testimonies from Christian athletes. A local martial arts instructor, former NFL star Aeneas Williams, and Pujols each spoke. "I can't think of a greater place to celebrate my 30th birthday than with you guys, sharing my heart and lifting up the kingdom of Jesus," Pujols said.

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Pujols kept busy this offseason, winning his third National League MVP award in November and hosting a Christmas fundraiser for his Pujols Family Foundation. On New Year's Day, he and his wife Deidre celebrated their 10th anniversary by renewing their marriage vows. They now await the birth of their fourth child in February.

On Jan. 5, the Cardinals signed top free-agent Matt Holliday to a lucrative contract, causing fans to worry about whether the team could afford Pujols, too. His current contract ends after the 2011 season.

A few days later, former Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, now the team's hitting coach, confessed to steroid use during his playing career. In the midst of the ensuing media storm, McGwire raved about Pujols to Bob Costas: "He is, by far, one of the most terrific human beings-and when it's all said and done, he will be probably the greatest baseball player to ever play this game."

Such high praise poses a spiritual threat to Christian athletes, Pujols told the "Manly Night" crowd. "In baseball, every night there are thousands of people telling me how great I am," he said. "That can go to my head really quickly if I don't keep my spirit in check."

Reading Philippians 2:3, Pujols told the men, "One way for me to stay satisfied in Jesus is for me to stay humble. Humility is getting on your knees and staying in God's will. What He wants from me, not what the world wants."

Pujols said he prefers to live his life controlled by God and not by his flesh.

"It would be easy to go out and do whatever I want, but those things only satisfy the flesh for a moment," he said. "Jesus satisfies my soul forever."

Grateful kicker

Colts kicker Matt Stover deflects credit in success and failure

By Mark Bergin

He didn't win an MVP award. He didn't score a touchdown. He didn't even play for the winning team. But Indianapolis Colts kicker Matt Stover made a statement during Super Bowl XLIV that rang more true than a thousand 40-yard field goals. The 42-year-old journeyman, the oldest player ever to appear in football's biggest game, cracked the scoreboard with a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter and promptly pointed to the skies, giving glory to his maker. It's a move Stover and other believing players have made countless times, a simple deflection of credit to the deserving one.

But Stover wasn't finished. Three quarters later, the Colts called on their aging placekicker again, this time from 51 yards out. Stover missed, tugging the ball just left of the uprights. And yet, he once again pointed upward. CBS announcer Jim Nantz made note of the action, lauding Stover as a "spiritual man" grateful for divine blessing in success and failure, victory and defeat.

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