February 15, 2007

Judge Webber Swears In Albert Pujols as U.S. Citizen

By Joe Strauss

Reprinted with permission from the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

JUPITER, FLA. — He has been named a National League All-Star at three positions, and he has won a batting title, a Most Valuable Player Award and a Gold Glove.

Now, for the first time, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols will report to spring training as a U.S. citizen.

Pujols, 27, a native of the Dominican Republic, officially became a citizen Wednesday when he was sworn in by U.S. District Court judge Richard Webber. The ceremony at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse culminated a nearly yearlong process.

Pujols received a perfect score on the oral and written exam, according to Chester Moyer, officer in charge of the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service’s St. Louis branch. The 10-15 minute exam included questions about the American form of government, the function of its three branches, how a judicial proceeding works and the nation’s history.

“We asked him a few extra questions as a little extra test. He knew everything,” Moyer said.

Upon being told he had answered perfectly, Pujols clinched his fist and beamed, “I did it.”

Pujols graduated from high school in Independence in 1998, and the Cardinals selected him in the 13th round of the 1999 draft. In six major league seasons, El Hombre has amassed 250 home runs, 758 RBIs and a .332 average. He was named the National League’s most valuable player in 2005 and last season was runner-up for the third time.

Pujols applied for citizenship last year, Moyer said. A background check was required. Moyer described Pujols’ check as “real clean.”

Pujols prepared for Wednesday’s exam with his wife, Deidre, as his tutor. The Cardinals slugger took the oath surrounded by about 20 family and friends, including a number of employees from his restaurant, Pujols 5.

Those who have earned citizenship typically take the oath in groups of 70 to 75 at ceremonies held twice monthly, according to Jim Woodward, clerk of the U.S. District Court. Arrangements were made for a special ceremony for Pujols because he is scheduled to arrive in Florida this weekend for spring training. The ceremony was open to the public but was not advertised.

Webber addressed Pujols for about 20 minutes regarding the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Woodward said, “When it was over, he looked very pleased.”

Neither Pujols nor his agent, Dan Lozano, could be reached for comment Thursday.

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