Wilmer Valderrama talks about Albert Pujols
May, 10, 2012
By Lynn Hoppes | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillWilmer Valderrama, throwing out a first pitch, has made a successful career after "That '70s Show."Hispanic actor/activist Wilmer Valderrama has lived in Los Angeles since the age of 13, and he's embraced the local sports scene: Lakers, Dodgers and Galaxy, among the other pro teams in town.
So when Albert Pujols of the Dominican Republic signed a 10-year, $250 million contract to play for the Angels, Valderrama was excited about the opportunity -- for sports fans and the 7.7 million Latinos who call Southern California home.
Well, things didn't start smoothly as Pujols was upset that billboards throughout Southern California were erected bearing the Spanish words "El Hombre." While in St. Louis, Pujols asked fans to refrain from calling him that out of respect for Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who was nicknamed "The Man."
"There is one man that gets that respect, and that's Stan Musial," Pujols said this spring. "I know 'El Hombre' is 'the man' in Spanish, but he is 'The Man.'"
And then Pujols began struggling on the field; he is batting .198 with only one home run. He was even benched last weekend to help him break out of his slump, and he has been booed by the home fans.
Valderrama, who was in New York this week working with Dr. Scholl's to get kids more active, knows that the 32-year-old Pujols -- easily a future Hall of Famer -- can turn it around.
"He needs to put all the distractions behind him and focus on the game he loves," said Valderrama, who was born in Miami but is of Colombian and Venezuelan descent. "I know that he wants to be a role model and a hero to our community, but he must go out there and have fun."
And that's what the 32-year-old Valderrama has been doing lately. He's on the NBC show "Awake"; he's working with the charity clothing line "This Shirt Helps"; and he's even dabbling in music.
"I've been so blessed and honored," Valderrama said. "These are like chapters in my life. I'm looking to see what else I can conquer."