ST. LOUIS -- On a lovely, surprisingly mild late-summer day, nearly every Cardinals player gave up his off-day to trek out approximately 40 miles from downtown St. Louis. Of course, there was golf awaiting them when they got there, but even so, it was telling.
The annual Albert Pujols Celebrity Golf Classic took place on Monday at the Country Club at St. Alban's, west of St. Louis. And it was hard to find a Cardinals player who didn't show up -- from fellow sluggers like Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel to starting pitchers like Kyle Lohse and Chris Carpenter, to relievers Ryan Franklin and Brad Thompson to the double-play combination of Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker.
They could have been anywhere on their off-day, and they came out to participate in the fundraiser for the Pujols Family Foundation.
And it wasn't just players. General manager John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa showed up, not to mention stars such as Amaury Nolasco from television's "Prison Break." In total, more than 300 people participated -- an estimated 63 groups, each consisting of four players plus a celebrity.
"It means a lot," Pujols said before the foursomes hit the course. "It's a gorgeous day today to play golf, but also knowing what we're here for -- it's a charity event to raise money for my foundation. I definitely want to thank my teammates -- we don't have too many days off during the year -- for showing up here and supporting the foundation. And to all the celebrities from all around the country for showing up and supporting my foundation. Hopefully, we can get a good turnout. Hopefully, it doesn't rain and we have a great day."
The weather held, and the relatively low temperatures made for a perfect day to be outside. The golf tournament is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Pujols Family Foundation, which is dedicated to helping people in St. Louis and Pujols' native Dominican Republic -- especially people with Down syndrome. Last year's tournament raised roughly $400,000.
"This is to give back to the community and back to the Dominican Republic," Pujols said. "To me, that's what it's all about -- to give back to them. It's not about us. ... It's about the lives that we can change through our foundation. At the end of the day, that's where we keep our focus."
Following the golf, the participants attended a reception and charity auction, all geared toward raising money for the foundation. Upcoming events for the foundation include the Autumn Prom, a dance for people who have Down syndrome, and the annual "O Night Divine" Christmas fundraiser.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.