The Dominican Republic has produced some of the best baseball players ever. Few — if any — are better than Pedro Martinez and Albert Pujols.
Martinez won three Cy Young Awards and was selected for eight All-Star Games in an 18-year career that culminated with his induction into baseball's Hall of Fame in 2015.
Pujols just finished his 22-year career, returning to St. Louis for one final storybook season after leaving a decade earlier following what might have been the best 11-year run to start a career by any hitter in MLB history.
Martinez currently is a commentator for TBS' coverage of the playoffs and recently came to St. Louis to interview Pujols for a feature that aired Thursday afternoon in the pregame show leading into the Seattle-Houston telecast. It was an emotional conversation that concluded with the men embracing.
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Pujols related a story about how he first became interested in playing baseball, an anecdote he said he rarely tells.
"I was about 5 or 6 years old," he says. "Well, the first thing I started with (in sports) was boxing. The first day, they spar me with another kid who was about two or three years older than me, and he beat the crap out of me, Pedro. I mean beat me up. I went home crying. I think it was the next day I choose to play baseball.
"Up to this day I never know who was that guy that beat me up. But I want to see him so I can thank him so much!"
The mood soon turns more introspective, when Martinez asks Pujols about what he is thankful for as his career ends.
"Everything ... my life, my whole life. I couldn't even imagine," Pujols says, then chokes up. He wipes away tears.
He regains his composure and continues the interview that took place in the upper concourse at Busch Stadium, overlooking the field and with the Arch in the background.
"Can you imagine a Dominican little boy shining shoes, (hauling) trash every Saturday to bring some food for my grandma and my grandpa and my dad, who were struggling.
... (To) use my life like this is just amazing. I wouldn't change anything."
The interview ends with Martinez telling Pujols: "This is why I wanted to come here myself. I know that many people don't know the man away from the uniform. That people don't know the heart. I hope that baseball in general out there learns from someone that's probably going to finish in the top three players that ever played the game."
Pujols says: "I'm blessed."
Martinez continues: "I hope everything is as beautiful and shiny (for you going forward) as they have been in your career, in your life."
They then embrace.
"I love you. I'm so proud of you, of everything you've done,' Martinez tells Pujols. "Great effort. Great everything."