Cardinals tap Pujols genes, draft Albert's cousin Wilfrido

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals have had such success with Albert Pujols, they decided to draft his cousin.

The team selected 17-year-old Wilfrido Pujols, an outfielder from Fort Osage High School near Kansas City, in the sixth round on Tuesday.

"I hope he does better than me," Albert Pujols said. "I hope he's the one that breaks all the records that I put up in four years. But I told him not to look at my name, to look at himself, and to take advantage of the opportunity."

Pujols, 25, said he sees a lot of himself in his cousin.

"He's got some talent and he loves the game," Pujols said. "I just wanted to play baseball, and I can see that in his eyes."

General manager Walt Jocketty said the team wanted to make sure they got Wilfrido Pujols, even at the expense of drafting him a round or two early.

"We think he's got a very good chance of being a very good hitter," Jocketty said.

The Cardinals' experience with Wilfrido Pujols' famous cousin made drafting him a plus.

"I've talked to Albert about him and Albert said, 'No. 1, he's a good kid,"' Jocketty said. "He's a hard worker and he thought he was a kid that was worth taking a chance on, so I know if he's anything like his cousin he's going to work hard and give his best, and that's all we ask."

Wilfrido has some big shoes to fill.

Albert Pujols, who was taken in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, is the first player in major league history to hit 30 home runs in each of his first four seasons. His 160 homers in the first four years is second only to Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, and he is one of three players with 500 RBIs in the first four seasons along with Hall of Famers Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams.

Albert Pujols said if his cousin signs with the Cardinals, he'll help him all he can. He sat down with Wilfrido for about 1 1/2 hours recently when the Cardinals were in Kansas City for an interleague series.

"If he decides to sign here, it's good because I can help him out in spring training and I can stay in touch with him," Pujols said. "I told him you'll probably get drafted and people are probably going to treat you real nice, but that you respect the game and try to learn, and don't worry about the money, that the money is going to be there when you get to the big leagues."

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