Pujols is godfather to Polanco's son

DETROIT -- For seven years, Albert Pujols and Placido Polanco have forged a friendship that has created close ties between the two players and their families.

In the World Series, Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals) and Polanco (Detroit Tigers) are on opposite sides of the ball.

"It's a difficult situation," Polanco told ESPNdeportes.com. "Albert is my compadre and closest friend in baseball, but now we're focused on helping our teams win the World Series."

Pujols, first baseman and third-place hitter for the National League champions, is godfather to Polanco's 3-year-old son, Ishmael.

When Polanco, the Tigers' second baseman and third-place hitter, visits St. Louis in the offseason, he and his family stay at the Pujols' house. The hospitality is returned when the Pujols are in Detroit or Miami.

"For us Latin players, the relationship between compadres is sacred," Polanco explained. "The godfather of your child is like his second father in case something happens to you. It's like another member of the family."

Although Polanco and Pujols hail from the Dominican Republic, their friendship started in the United States, when they were teammates with the Cardinals for 2½ seasons in the early part of this decade.

The relationship continued even after Polanco was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies at midseason in 2002. The two friends reunited in the World Baseball Classic on the D.R. team.

Pujols, defending National League MVP, is considered the best hitter in baseball today, with six extraordinary seasons hitting over .300 and at least 30 home runs, 100 runs and 100 RBIs.

"We wished each other luck before the series started, but we both want to win it. Friendship is one thing, but work is work."
-- Placido Polanco

Polanco, a career .300 hitter in nine seasons, was the ALCS MVP this year for Detroit against Oakland, hitting .529 to help the Tigers sweep the A's.

Detroit is making its first World Series appearance since 1984, but St. Louis has represented the NL in the Fall Classic two of the last three years and 17 times in its history.

"We wished each other luck before the series started, but we both want to win it," Polanco said. "Friendship is one thing, but work is work."

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.