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OC Register: How Albert Pujols and his wife Deidre brought the fight against sex trafficking to Angel Stadium

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She cooked meals in a safe house for sex workers in Mexico City.

She met a 4-year-old girl selling condoms while her mother turned tricks in Cambodia.

She has been on the streets observing pimps and the women they have exploited in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America and India.

She didn’t view the horror from a country club or the family seats at Angel Stadium.

Deidre Pujols, wife of Angels superstar Albert Pujols, wants you to be moved like she has been moved by the devastating, redemptive and inspirational images she has seen. She wants you to think about sex crimes in ways you haven’t before.

What does she say when she meets young girls in the sex trade on the street? What would you say?


Returning from her life-changing and enlightening travels, Deidre inspired her husband’s employer, the Angels, to get involved. Her next goal is to inspire all the teams in Major League Baseball.

They are not concepts that seem to belong in the same universe – baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and sex slavery. But Deidre Pujols put them together.

On Sept. 16, Angel Stadium will host the first “Strike Out Slavery” event to raise money and awareness in the battle against human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Fans can win the chance to meet Albert Pujols by contributing on CrowdRise.com, where the proceeds (the goal is $400,000) will go to several anti-trafficking organizations.

“We are against anything that compromises the value of another human being,” Deidre said. Her effort is focused on stopping traffickers, pimps and their networks where force, fraud or coercion is used to compel humans into having sex for money.

According to the Global Slavery Index, human slavery is a $32 billion per year industry involving 45 million victims in 167 countries. UNICEF’s “End Trafficking Project” reveals that human trafficking in the United States is most prominent in California, New York, Texas and Florida.

Three California cities – Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco – have been designated by the FBI as high-intensity child prostitution areas.  The National Human Trafficking Hotline Data Report for 2016 listed 1,321 unique cases in California reported to the hotline for the calendar year.


In Orange County alone, there were 225 victims of human trafficking in 2015. When the 2016 report is released, that number will be 319, said Lita Mercado, program director of community service programs for the O.C. task force. The number of victims has risen every year since the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force began keeping statistics in 2010.

“Orange County is clearly a destination location for human trafficking,” said Mercado. “In Orange County, there is a demand base for sex, a demand base for sex with children and a demand base for cheap labor.”

Diedre and Albert Pujols are using their foundation to help combat human trafficking. Photographed at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA on Monday, August 21, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Diedre and Albert Pujols are using their foundation to help combat human trafficking. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)


Deidre, the mother of five and a tireless advocate for causes like Down syndrome and the plight of the poor in the Dominican Republic, was introduced to her most recent obsession in February 2016.

At a dinner in Washington D.C., Deidre met Benny Yu, who invited her to visit a safe house he operates for girls escaping the sex trade in Mexico City.

Deidre told Albert about the invitation. “He wasn’t crazy about me going,” Deidre said.

“I didn’t understand,” Albert said. “I was concerned about her safety. She was traveling out of her comfort zone.”

There was no way Albert Pujols could stop his wife.

Once she met the young girls who had been saved in Mexico City, Deidre wanted to learn more. So she took off to find sex slavery around the world.

“I was locked in,” Deidre said.

“She makes things happen,” Albert said with a smile. He leaned over and reminded his wife about the time she went to the Dominican Republic with former major leaguer Adam LaRoche, who played with six teams in 12 seasons.

Deidre and LaRoche went to a casino with the former first baseman posing as a guy looking for sex. Deidre said she watched as he was approached by several men offering any kind of sex he wanted.

Deidre watched him for an hour.

“He was offered girls from any country in the world,” Deidre said. “Exploitation is so easy.”

She knew it was time to get out of there when men in the casino figured out who LaRoche was.

By last September, Deidre had seen enough. And she had an idea: Use the platform that made her husband famous.

Deidre and Albert met with representatives in Major League Baseball’s corporate office in New York.

She called it an “open conversation.” Her goal was “helping them understand the way to use baseball’s platform” to increase awareness about human trafficking.

MLB officials didn’t say yes, but they didn’t say no.

Last December, Deidre brought her passion home. She put together another presentation for the Angels. She invited Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, members of law enforcement and others to meet with Angels brass John Carpino, Dennis Kuhl and Tim Mead.

The Angels didn’t hesitate.

“She has a mission,” said Mead, the Angels’ vice president of communications. “She has a focus. She will not be deterred. We will do whatever we can do.”

This week, the Angels unveiled the giant scoreboard graphics that will flash “Strike Out Slavery” at the game on Sept. 16.

Deidre became emotional when she saw the scoreboard for the first time. “If we can educate one more person, or prevent one more incident …”


Deidre said one of her heroes in the battle against human trafficking is a woman named Rebecca Bender, who will be one of the guests at Angel Stadium on Sept. 16.

In 2007, Bender escaped a six-year life as a sex slave in Las Vegas.

“There were days when I didn’t think I was going to live,” Bender said. “There were days when I didn’t want to live. I will be there on the 16th. I’m going to be humbled. I can’t believe all these people care so much.”

Deidre said she sees herself in Bender, who was a college student from a middle-class family. Bender, who was a young single mom, was tricked into trusting a man who promised her a better life in Las Vegas. That man threatened Bender’s daughter to compel her to prostitute herself.

“It could have easily happened to me,” Deidre said. “When I met Rebecca we hit it off. She is a strong survivor advocate. It’s critical we bring in people like her.”

Deidre and Albert consider Sept. 16 a tryout. If other MLB teams are inspired, they might have similar nights at their stadiums.

“This thing is in our heart, and it takes a lot of people to help,” Albert said.

Her next target, Deidre said, will be the Washington Nationals, near where she was inspired to look into human trafficking.

“Prevention is our biggest advocate,” Deidre said.


Deidre Pujols is moved every time she meets a girl who has been exploited.

She asks them to remember when they were children, about their hopes and dreams before they were forced to sell their bodies.

“What do you have deep down inside you?” she asks them. “I remind them there is something more. I tell them God has been with you every moment.

“You are beautiful. You are amazing. You will live what you believe.”

And something always happens in those conversations. The girls are not used to hearing those kind words.

“You can see the color in their faces change,” Deidre said.

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When I was completing my Bachelor's degree I did a lengthy report on sex trafficking and the exploitation of these women is an ongoing tragedy. They are literally ripped from their home countries, sold into slavery and transported around the world, including the U.S. (part of my report focused on a police raid in Orange County too many years ago), and are forced into prostitution to pay off debts that they will never actually be able to pay off. It is a tragic state in our world. These women deserve better than this. I'm all for people making their own choices in life but modern slavery is alive and well in this country and is only getting worse under this current administration.

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2 hours ago, Blarg said:

@Chuckster70 your rss feed is posting entire articles rather than links back to the source. I'm sure OCR would like the web hits for their content.

This has already been brought to Fletch over a week ago. He said he was going to have the people over there look at it. 

I don't control the RSS feed, they do. 

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