After they drafted him in 2000, Adam signed with the Braves out of Glynn Academy in St. Simons, Georgia. Rob English is the scout who signed him.
In his senior year, in 14 games at Glynn Academy, a high school near Brunswick, Georgia, Wainwright went 6-3, with an 0.89 ERA.
GREW UP A BRAVES FAN
Of growing up in Georgia and getting drafted by the Braves, Wainwright said, "The only way I can put it is that it was a dream come true. Growing up in Georgia, there were only two things ever on the TV: "The Dukes of Hazzard" and the Braves on TBS. I'd eat dinner with one hand and both eyes on the TV set every night at 7:30."
In 2000, Wainwright got drafted by the Braves. "I was wearing Braves stuff since I was 3," he said. "So signing with Atlanta is real exciting."
He grew up in Brunswick, Georgia and wore a jersey sporting Dale Murphy's No. 3 from the time he was three years old.
"I always wore that thing and didn't take it off until I was busting out of it," Wainwright says. "I must have looked like an ogre by the time I threw it away."
He was such a tremendous athlete that he was an All-State kicker and wide receiver in high school, and played basketball on the same court in middle school with NBA No. 1 pick Kwame Brown before giving up hoops to concentrate on baseball and football full-time.
He was also an excellent goalie in soccer but didn't play it for long because it conflicted with baseball.
Wainwright is also an avid golfer. While he didn't play on the golf team at Glynn, he continues to pick the brain of another one of the school's most famous alumni—Davis Love III.
"I've always played baseball," Wainwright said. "I grew up at the park. I had a brother who was seven years older than me, and I used to go out and watch him practice."
After the 2003 season, Wainwright worked to add a few pounds to his slender frame. That helped enhance his strength and his durability.
In October 2003, Wainwright was among the 30 players vying for 24 roster spots on the United States Olympic Qualifying Team. He competed for a spot during Qualifying Team Trials, held in Phoenix.
But Adam was one of the players who was cut from the team. That left Wainwright wondering if he had the mental toughness to make it in the Major Leagues. (Fast-forward to the 2006 World Series when Adam struck out 15 batters in 9 2/3 scoreless innings on the way to the Cardinals' World Championship.)
In 2004, Baseball America ranked Adam as the #3 prospect in the Braves' organization. And just before 2005 spring camp opened, the magazine had Wainwright as second-best prospect in the Cardinals' organization, behind only pitcher Anthony Reyes. And before 2006 spring training, Baseball America rated Adam as 6th-best prospect in the Cardinals' farm system.
Adam was married in 2004. He married his girlfriend of seven years, Jenny.
"Marriage has changed me a lot," Wainwright says. "If you can leave the bad outings at the ballpark and not carry them around with you, that's a good thing and something I really wasn't used to.
"The great thing about us is we've been together before I wanted to be a baseball player. When we met, she thought I played football and that was it. So she's not with me for the wrong reasons. I'm lucky, because she likes me pretty good." (Chris Kline-Baseball America-6/27/05)
Sept 10, 2006: Adam and his wife celebrated the birth of their first child, a daughter.
In 2005, Wainwright led the Pacific Coast League in innings, as well as hits allowed and wild pitches (12).
Adam lives on St. Simons Island in Georgia, not more than two blocks away from where his mother lives.
In 2008, Wainwright was installed as the Cardinals' player representative.
Some of Adam's favorite TV viewing: Prison Break, American Idol, and Paula's Home Cooking.
For music, he is a country fan (George Strait, Alan Jackson) and 80s and 90s rock fan (Pearl Jam, Journey).
Wainwright's favorite movies include "Braveheart," "Tombstone," and "The Last of the Mohicans."
Wainwright has an interesting superstition: "I sleep in the same shirt the night before I pitch. I've been doing it since high school," Adam said.
Asked who he'd like to trade places with for a day, Adam said, "An American Indian before other people came (to this land)—just to live outdoors, ride horses, and shoot arrows," he said.
First job: He was a caddie at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Georgia, when he was 16.
Bucket list: "#1—Be a good Dad and raise good Christian children. And #2—Harvest an elk," Adam said.
Like all of us, Wainwright admitted to being very puzzled about who or what caused the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. “I don’t have the words. I don’t really understand it,” said Wainwright. But he did know one thing.
“Nobody’s God,” said Wainwright. “That’s what is misinterpreted. This is not coming from God. It’s not Allah. It’s not Buddha or the different deities. The real teachings of those people are not hate and violence. This comes from that other guy. The Devil.”
May 24, 2006: Adam hit his first career home run off Noah Lowry. He became the 22nd batter in MLB history to hit a home run off the very first pitch thrown in his very first at bat.
July 29, 2013: Wainwright launched wainosworld.com to introduce people to his newest charity initiative, Waino's World of Fantasy Football. The idea is simple: Wainwright is recruiting fantasy football players to compete against one of four Cardinals. The entrance fee is $2,500 per person, with 100 percent of the donations being split between two preselected charities.
GROWING UP ON AN ISLAND
Wainwright was born in Brunswick, Georgia to Bill, an attorney, and Nancy Wainwright. However, his parents divorced when he was seven years old and his father moved to Florida, leaving only Wainwright's mother to raise him and his older brother Trey, now also an attorney in Atlanta.
Adam credits Trey, seven years his senior, with teaching him everything he knows about sports after their father left, including building a pitcher's mound in their backyard to teach Adam how to pitch. The young Wainwright also participated in the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and numerous church activities.
The netting still hangs in the backyard of the Couper Avenue residence where Nancy Wainwright used to stay up late hoping she was doing everything right, wondering if she could do enough. Her prayers were often promises, letting God know that she would give nothing less than her all to make certain she fulfilled her obligations to the two wonderful blessings sleeping under her roof.
There was Trey, the high academic achiever, Eagle Scout and future law school graduate whose work ethic also fostered a successful athletic career. Adam was seven years and eight school grades his younger, trailing Trey with open eyes and, not until later, realizing how much a protector big brother had been.
Adam was still in an infant seat when Nancy began taking him to the Little League fields at Mallory Park or the nearby basketball gym for Trey's games. Adam tagged along for years, eventually eliciting enough sympathy from Trey and his friends that they would let him shoot a few baskets or shag a few balls to keep him content.
"I think they just let me do things kind of to be nice," Adam jokes nowadays. That was probably part of the motive, but Trey was also especially intentional in how he looked after Adam. Their father had left the family before Adam was in kindergarten, and as much as Nancy insisted that it was not Trey's duty to take on a father-figure role, he saw a least partial obligation. And so when Trey—at this point several years into his college studies at Georgia Tech—started seeing Dads building backyard batting cages for some of Adam's teammates, he decided to step in. He believed Adam, then a rising star in several sports, needed a mound.
There were not enough funds to go purchase ready-made clay, so the two brothers began digging. They went down 10 feet, Adam estimates, before finding good brown dirt that could be used. Trey purchased lumber from a hardware store to build the frame. He constructed a netting system and spray painted the edges of the strike zone. "It was a fun brother project," Trey recalls.
Adam spent hours upon hours on that homemade mound, throwing at the corners of the strike zone during his high school years. If he missed by too much, the ball would be lost within a mix of thorns or shrubs. In other words, command was critical.
Nancy, or Nana as her grandchildren now call her, still lives in that modest south Georgia home on the island of St. Simons. She is a real estate agent these days, thriving in a career that she had to give up for several years in order to rear two boys alone. She supported the family—or the "Three Musketeers," as she calls them—as an interior designer, specializing in kitchens and baths. Her studio was at home, and she would escape there in the late-night and early-morning hours to do her drawings and plan the remodels. Doing her work while everyone else slept freed her afternoon hours for more important work.
"I can't put that into words," Adam said. "She's by herself, working two jobs and taking two kids back and forth across bridges. There was just a lot of stuff going on, and she didn't have any help."
On an island where most children wanted for nothing, Nancy made her boys feel like they had more than they actually did. She allowed their lives to be consumed by sports, as long as academics remained a priority, and was the head of the household where all the friends wanted to hang out. It didn't hurt, Adam said, that his Mom was a culinary wizard.
She brought them to church, allowed them to keep a dog, and made an exception to the family dinner rule when the Braves were on TV. On those nights, they would pull out TV trays and eat while watching TBS. Trey and Adam spent the telecasts dissecting the mechanics and approaches of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.
Throughout Adam's teenage years, his brother Trey, who would later negotiate Adam's $1.25 million draft bonus, helped his little brother construct a wall of clippings. Any time famed Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone would be quoted in the newspaper talking about the mechanics or mindset of pitching, Trey would cut it out, highlight it and put it on Adam's bedroom wall. They would cut out quotes from the Braves' pitchers, too. The wall became a collection of quotations, designed to push Adam to think through the art of pitching.
Later, in between graduating with honors from Georgia Tech and beginning law school, Trey spent a year back in St. Simons, where he took a job at a bank. His other job involved Adam. He took his younger brother to all his practices and games, videotaped his pitching outings, and would then sit down to discuss them with Adam afterward. He had always been one to challenge Adam, going back to the days when he used to make Adam his catcher when he was in elementary school.
"He was always taller and more athletically gifted than his peers," Trey said. "There were times where if I needed to practice or throw a bullpen session, the convenient thing to do was say, 'Let's go outside and throw the baseball.' I didn't let up on him a whole lot. He better hold his own or he was going to get hurt."
It was also Trey who encouraged Adam, as an eighth grader, to try out for the high school baseball team. He hoped the experience would prepare Wainwright for tryouts the next year. Adam ended up making the team.
Indeed, Adam would always be more advanced than others his age. A few years later, Little League organizers approached Nancy to tell her they needed to move Adam up a level because the "parents are scared he's going to hit the ball so hard he'll hurt their children." Nancy begrudgingly obliged.
Adam excelled in whatever sport he tried. He was winning junior golf tournaments by the age of nine. His Golden Isles Heat soccer team was among the elite soccer teams in the state. In middle school, he and teammate Kwame Brown, who would later be selected first overall in the 2001 NBA draft, led the basketball team to an undefeated season.
As Adam prepared to start high school at Glynn Academy, the varsity baseball coach and a football assistant coach, Chuck Fehr, persuaded him to come to a summer football workout. Fehr placed the football where it would be for an extra point. Adam nailed it. Fehr then set up a 40-yard field goal. Adam hit that, too. Adam later went on to earn all-state honors as a placekicker and all-region as a wide receiver.
"That was just him," Fehr said. "He could do whatever he put his mind to."
Adam still lives on that Georgia island during his offseason, giving back to a community that once stepped up to help raise him. Trey is just a few hours away in Atlanta, where he is an attorney. Nancy is busy with her real estate career. She'll spend the early evening hours inside that island home, the one where the netting still stands and the memories still last, watching Adam open the Cardinals' quest for a 12th World Series championship. (Langosch - 10/01/13)
Adam spent the 2013 offseason building an orphanage and water project for less fortunate children in Haiti.
Spring Training 2014: "You can be a pitcher who stands out the most, but unless you're doing all the extra stuff on the periphery, that really isn't a title you deserve," Cards manager Mike Matheny said. "Adam absolutely does."
In a rotation where no other member is over the age of 26, the 31-year-old Wainwright (in 2014) leads them like a shepherd does his flock. "He has control over us young guys," Michael Wacha said. He was serious.
As Wainwright leads, each of the other four—Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Wacha—follow. Lynn refers to Wainwright as "the rock ... the guy that we lean on to get us through our hard times, our ups and downs during the season." Miller says he looks to Wainwright as the example of "how I want to represent myself." Kelly admires how Wainwright "is never too big for the game."
Wainwright heads the pitchers' workouts and also the team Bible Study. He has an air of approachability, but does not hesitate to interject or correct, when necessary. The pitchers see how efficiently he gets through his workouts and have learned from the ways in which he prepares for starts.
Wainwright helped talk Wacha through the pressures of the 2013 postseason only to then sit back and watch in awe at how the rookie right-hander rose to the occasion of pitching on baseball's biggest stage. Wainwright has mentored Miller on techniques of preparation and body care.
Lynn thinks often about Wainwright's early advice not to abandon his strengths as a pitcher while trying to improve on the deficiencies. And Wainwright was the one who first encouraged Kelly to shorten up his stride during the 2013 season. Kelly later credited that adjustment once he became one of the N.L.'s best second-half pitchers.
"Every team would love to have somebody like Waino, who is both a leader and an ace," Miller said. "We learn something new from him almost every single day." (Jenifer Langosch - MLB.com - 3/28/14)
Back from his 2014 All-Star stay in Minneapolis, Wainwright conceded that the uproar created after he described a pitch to Derek Jeter as a "pipe shot" did mar the overall experience.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't," Wainwright said. "But when you bring something upon yourself, what can you expect? I didn't know the fallout was going to last so long and be so wide-based. But dealing with the Michael Jordan of baseball almost, you should tread lightly, I think, when you talk about him. I used a couple words I probably shouldn't have used."
Wainwright's comments about facing Jeter created an instant social media storm when it was widely interpreted that he pitched Jeter with the intention of trying to make it easier for the Yankees shortstop to get a hit. This came during an interview almost immediately after Wainwright allowed three hits, including a double to Jeter, and three runs in his appearance.
Once the game ended, Wainwright met with the media a second time to clarify his remarks. His emphasis then was that he was trying to throw Jeter a strike because he did not want to fall behind, 2-0. He admitted that "pipe shot" had not been the appropriate wordage.
Even after all the hubbub, Wainwright, one of the Cardinals most affable and accessible to the media, said he does not plan to change how he engages with the media and public in interviews moving forward.
"I made a mistake, and I move on," Wainwright said. "I'm not going to change how I do things. I'm not going to change the way I interview. I'm going to be more mindful of the words I use, but for crying out loud, this is ridiculous. The people who completely lost respect for me because of this need to realize I messed up."
Wainwright did not speak directly to Jeter after the incident, but did say he had friend Kelly Johnson relay a message to Jeter on his behalf. (Jennifer Langosch - MLB.com, 7/18 2014)
Adam claims he can still kick a 50-yard field goal. At a wedding in 2012, he took his friend Glen Jones to the Tennessee Titan football field after a bachelor party and kicked a 40-yarder on his first try.
Spring 2015: As Adam grew inside his childhood home along the Georgia coastline, so did the compilation of newspaper clippings plastered on his bedroom wall.
It was both an exercise and education each day, as he and his older brother would scour the local paper seeking out what others had to say about pitching mechanics or mindset on the mound. Then-Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone was featured prominently, as were members of Atlanta's vaunted pitching staff.
Wainwright would highlight and then study, wanting to become a student of the craft and eventually desiring to be the next Atlanta ace.
He's ascended to that podium (albeit in another uniform), but as Wainwright prepares to make the fourth Opening Day start of his career, he finds himself molded by those Braves pitchers he once daily dissected.
"They all were different, but they all were great in their own way," Wainwright said. "My goal was to take things I liked about all three of them and kind of combine them. I don't do anything as good as the things I liked out of them, but I try to take the qualities that they had in trying to get there."
His favorite for some time was Steve Avery, the lefty who, as a 21-year-old, burst onto the scene as an 18-game winner in 1991. From there, Wainwright was drawn to three future Hall of Famers—Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
In Smoltz, Wainwright saw his desired intensity. Watching Maddux, Wainwright would chuckle at the trickery. And in Glavine, he saw a pitcher able to expand the strike zone at will. (J Langosch - MLB.com - April 2, 2015)
Looking for a way to fill his unexpected free time in 2011, Wainwright, his arm in a sling, marked off a small plot of land in his yard and constructed a garden. It kept him busy while he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery.
That garden has grown immensely since then, with Wainwright planting fruit trees to stand alongside rows of vegetables. And it'll receive plenty of tending to this summer, as Wainwright again looks for outlets to keep him occupied. This time, a torn left Achilles leaves him sidelined until 2016. He intends to dust off his guitar, too, noting that guitar lessons are all of a sudden in his immediate future.
"I can play the chords and strum," Wainwright noted. "I can't pick. I can't play the bar chords. I'm not great, but I'd like to be. Sounds like something cool to do. I'll find ways to pass the time."
Wainwright's 2015 plans changed in an instant on April 26, 2015, when his left Achilles tendon broke from its place as he broke from the batter's box. Doctors have described the injury as a "total fluke," telling Wainwright that they have no explanation as to why his strong tendon snapped the way it did.
Wainwright has accepted that his 2015 season is over. He intends to have an impact, however, noting that he will still be a regular presence around Busch Stadium for home games and will likely join the team on some road trips, once his foot begins to heal. He maintained a similar schedule in 2011, a season he missed in its entirety, but one that nevertheless ended with the Cardinals capturing their 11th World Series title. (Langosch – mlb.com – 4/28/15)
August 21, 2015: To anyone who has been willing to listen, Wainwright is ready with bold assertions. The work he's doing, the hours he spends in daily rehab, it's not just to get him ready for a 2016 return. It's all being done, Wainwright says, with an eye on 2015.
Told in April that he needed season-ending surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon, Wainwright has motored through his rehab in an attempt to defy his diagnosis. He wants to pitch again this year. Or, at least, make the Cardinals' decision not to use him an especially difficult one.
It would be, as general manager John Mozeliak acknowledged this week, a miracle rehab for Wainwright to even get to that point.
"You can't stop being who you are, right? I'm going to push as hard as I can without being silly," Wainwright said. "I'm going to push as hard as I can to try and get back for this team this season. If not, then I know at least I tried everything I could."
Wainwright sustained the injury coming out of the batter's box in an April 25 start against the Brewers, and he underwent surgery the following week. Doctors put the recovery time at 9 to 12 months, which prompted everyone, except Wainwright, to close the door on this season.
The methodical rehab process began with weeks of immobility, where Wainwright's foot first rested in a protective boot and was later wrapped in a compression sock. Both are now gone. He recently resumed throwing, doing so from a flat-ground distance of 90 feet this week. If all continues on this pace, Wainwright will be throwing off the mound in September.
"Adam, as soon as he went down, the first conversation he had was about how he was going to beat the odds and be back," manager Mike Matheny said.
Wainwright spends about five hours a day deep in rehab work, and that stringent program keeps him from being able to join the club on road trips. (J Langosch - MLB.com - August 22, 2015)
Adam and his wife, Jenny, have three daughters: Baylie, born in 2007, Morgan (2009) and Macy (2012).
The next time Wainwright feels sorry for himself will be the first. A devout Christian, he says, "God has me right where he wants me. There's got to be a reason for (an injury), and I am going to make the most of it."
He quickly adds that even if some might think such a belief is "the dumbest thing you've ever heard," he is not about to whine.
"Nobody likes being around a negative Nellie," Adam says. "My wife and I try to live our lives and portray to our kids that whatever life throws at you, make the most of it. Always stay positive and good things happen, and if they don't happen right away, stay positive and they eventually will.
"What good does it do anybody to sit around, put and mope about bad things."
Adam has an impressive garden in his backyard. Not only does it produce cucumbers, but Wainwright has concocted his own recipe for making pickles.
Wainwright doesn't do halfway very well, on or off the field, and that goes for gardening, too. He started growing when he missed the 2011 season because of Tommy John surgery and in the years since, his interest has risen. He has planted zucchini, eggplant, blueberries, at least three types of tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, including banana and jalapeno.
His herb plants include basil, thyme, rosemary and dill, and a small apple tree sits along the fence.
December 28, 2015: Wainwright and his wife welcomed their adorable daughter, Sadee Faith Wainwright, into the world.
- January 9, 2016: An independent movie filmed in Centralia and Belleville hit the big screen with dozens of St. Louis and metro-east actors, including Adam Wainwright.
The 34-year-old Cardinals pitcher was making his acting debut in “Proximity,” although he isn’t expected to attend the Lincoln Theatre showing. He’s at his off-season home in Georgia, said writer-director Dan Steadman, who was pleasantly surprised by Adam’s performance.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect much,” said Dan, 42, of De Soto, Missouri. “We’ve all seen sports figures hosting 'Saturday Night Live,’ and it’s a little bit of torture because they can’t read cue cards, and they can’t memorize lines. They have other talents. But Adam did a really good job.”
Associate producer Kathy Kaiser, a friend of Adam’s family, invited him to join the cast. He was out most of last season with the Cardinals due to injury. Filming took place over one week in July. The romantic comedy is set in Centralia. Adam plays Roger, an old boyfriend of the 39-year-old main character, Ella. He bumps into her and her new boyfriend at a park, creating an uncomfortable situation because she’s trying to pass for 30.
Adam’s scene was filmed at a golf course in Chesterfield, Missouri, on a day with misting rain. He wore black socks with shorts to show Roger’s geekiness. At one point, Ella tries to get rid of Roger by pretending to see his teenage daughter talking to a man wearing a Chicago Cubs jersey, an inside joke to amuse Cardinals fans. (Teri Maddox - Jan. 2016)
April 3, 2016: This date marks Adam's fifth Opening Day start. Wainwright's count puts him in rare company, with only one pitcher in Cardinals' franchise history having made more. That was Bob Gibson.
June 2016: Adam Wainwright is serious about participating in the 2016 Home Run Derby on July 11 in San Diego. He meant it when he tweeted out that he was interested in taking part with Giants starter Madison Bumgarner and Cubs ace Jake Arrieta.
"I'm ready if they call," Wainwright said. "If in fact there was a one-millionth of a chance to get in it, I wanted to let the world know that I wanted to be a part of it."
Jan 13, 2017: Wainwright traded the mound for the mic when he hosted his first Big League Impact Sing Off and Karaoke Challenge to raise money for Cardinals Care and other local charities. The event, located at the Dave and Buster's location in Maryland Heights, Mo., featured Wainwright and other St. Louis-area singers competing on stage for a cash prize. Dave and Buster's donated 50 percent of the ticket sales to Big League Impact, Wainwright's charitable foundation.
Michael Hall, the executive director of Cardinals Care, said that Wainwright called him to pledge half of the event's proceeds to Cardinals Care. The rest of the money raised was split between Crisis Aid, Operation Food Search and the Big League Impact Global Initiative.
Wainwright tweeted a short video of himself singing a Taylor Swift hit in the shower. (J Langosch - MLB.com - Jan 13, 2017)
Aug 25, 2017: There is no denying the impact that Adam Wainwright has had on the field for the Cardinals over his career. But equally staggering is what the pitcher has been able to accomplish off the field for people in St. Louis and around the world. Wainwright held his fifth annual Big League Impact Fantasy Football Live Draft in St. Louis. The event allows fans to play a 13-week fantasy football season with Cardinals players and other celebrities. The donations made from the event, where participants drafted their teams, will go to four different causes, including Cardinals Care, Operation Food Search of St. Louis, Crisis Aid International and Big League Impact's Global Initiative Fund.
The idea for this type of event first came from Wainwright, who has enjoyed playing fantasy football for quite some time but wanted to do something more with it. His brother, Trey, helped get the idea off the ground, and the first event was held in 2013. The organization has since expanded, holding 34 events by the end of '17 and expanding to at least nine different MLB cities with 15 different professional athletes taking on hosting responsibilities. Big League Impact has now raised almost $2 million.
"It's great and humbling to see how much it has grown and how it has gone literally from an idea [that was born] sitting in front of the TV," Trey said. "We have a group of supporters all the way from that very first year, 2013, that keep coming back. It's really staggering."
Cardinals players taking part in the event included Lance Lynn, Luke Weaver and Matt Carpenter. Wainwright and his wife, Jenny, play key roles in the organization. They make sure that their donors are aware of where every dollar is being spent. At the event, over $140,000 was raised. A well was built in Haiti that provided clean drinking water for an entire community from the donations made during last year's event in St. Louis. Wainwright took time before Spring Training this year to visit Haiti, which he plans to do again in February 2018, to see the impact that the money would be making.
"It's not everybody at [Wainwright's] level that's willing to get on a plane and go to a third-world country and drink water there and eat food there" Big League Impact director Raymond St. Martin said. "He doesn't just believe in writing a check. He believes in really diagnosing what's happening around the world and then figuring out how he can make an impact."
The events in St. Louis have raised $775,000 for eight different charities. The donations have gone to a variety of important causes, and providing clean water and sanitation to over 11,000 people in Honduras and Haiti is just one example.
For Wainwright, however, what has been accomplished so far scratches the surface of what he hopes is an even more impactful future.
"My goal and my eventual dream, which hopefully will come true, is that this would be in 30 big league cities. That's what I've wanted to do," Wainwright said. "I want these other cities to come and see how we do it in St. Louis, because we do it right here. There were six full tables of 12 people, a great showing for a charity event of a fantasy football draft. It's wild to think about where we've come in this event. We'd love to spread this around as many places as we could." (A Gertzenberg - MLB.com - Aug 26, 2017)
Dec 28, 2017: We love to see players showing their love and admiration for their family. David Freese recently welcomed baby Kai into this world by introducing him to his canine BFF Bobdog and Freddie Freeman dressed as Willy Wonka for his 1-year-old son Charlie's birthday in September. And the cuteness continues with #DadGoals from Adam Wainwright. His daughter, Sadee Faith (whom we welcomed into the world two years ago), had a Wiggles-themed birthday party, and the Wainwrights went all out.
Imagine the pizza guy's surprise when we answered the door like this ... happy second birthday, Sadee Faith!
Adam dressed as "Captain Feathersword" and his wife Jenny dressed as "Dorothy the Dinosaur." We are just a little upset we didn't get to see the reaction of the pizza guy's face. Happy birthday, Sadee Faith. Your parents are officially super cool! (J Kleinschmidt - MLB.com - Dec 28, 2017)
Aug 31, 2018: There's a hospital in Haiti that's been open for only a year, but has saved thousands of people, delivered over a hundred babies and continues to treat one hundred people a day. It's due in part to the fact Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright plays fantasy football. Wainwright's sixth-annual Big League Impact Fantasy Football Live Draft took place at Busch Stadium.
Fans got the opportunity to draft in leagues with Wainwright and other Cardinals players, including Carlos Martinez, Matt Carpenter, Michael Wacha, Miles Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Mike Mayers, to raise money for worthy causes. Along with the draft, fans got a tour of Busch Stadium from Wainwright, and played catch on the field.
The event filled all the available seats for the several leagues drafting. All are PPR-based (points per reception) leagues, drafted in serpentine fashion, using stickers and a draft board in front of the tables where the participants sat. Each table was comprised of 11 team owners and four co-owners that will compete against the Cardinal players' teams. The fans play a full fantasy season against each other, including head-to-head matchups against players.
"Everybody thinks they know a little something about football," Cardinals broadcaster Mike Claiborne said. "Everybody has got an opinion, so obviously you have a chance to put your money where your mouth is in this situation for a very worthy cause." Over $2.5 million has been raised since 2013 when Wainwright started this event.
"It's probably one of the highlights of my whole career," Wainwright said. "Besides a World Series or something like that, I'm not sure there's been a more rewarding thing than knowing we started something that, you know, we've raised over two and a half million dollars now doing things like this."
The proceeds from the event will assist Cardinals Care, Striking Out Poverty, Crisis Aid International, and Big League Impact's Global Initiative Fund. If there are fans that didn't get to participate in the draft, but want to be involved, they can donate on the Big League Impact Website. The players split up to several leagues, with each league donating money to the player's corresponding cause, with the option to send money to the other charities at the event.
Wainwright's goal is to fund his hospital for a month, which requires a thousand dollars a day. Wacha is part of a sustainable cocoa project. Mayers and Weaver have adopted baseball fields in the Dominican Republic to assist in those communities. Mikolas is raising money for refugee homes for victims of sexual predators in St. Louis, and Carlos Martinez is participating for Tsunami Waves.
While the focus was on the charities involved and the draft to be had, it was also a celebration of Wainwright. Since starting the event, seven other clubs have joined: the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Padres, Reds, Twins and Diamondbacks. His idea in 2013 continues to save lives.
Also, Wainwright's birthday was on Thursday. "He turned 27 for the 10th year in a row," Claiborne said.
Wainwright smiled to the surprise of a cake and a gift: a cane with streamers, delivered by Weaver. As he prepared to blow out the candles, he had a question for the fans.
"What do I wish for?" Wainwright asked. One yelled out, "How about a first overall pick?" Wainwright laughed. "That's a pretty good wish." (S Collins - MLB.com - Aug 31, 2018)
On April 7, 2019, Adam celebrated as he led his team onto the field and befuddled the Padres batters. But what still sticks out from that game is how he celebrated that performance, afterward, with a son!
“I went and got my little boy and I brought him into the clubhouse,” Wainwright said. “Even though he can probably barely see across the room right now, it was cool to walk him through there, like, ‘Yep, yeah, this is what happens after games that you win.' I got to introduce him to everybody. That was pretty neat.”
On April 25, he finally got the chance to introduce that little boy, Caleb Adam Wainwright, to everyone else. Adam wrote on Twitter, "Lots of cool things happening lately but nothing compares to this. @Mrswaino and I have been waiting anxiously to announce that we have added a beautiful little boy to our family. So, I’d like to be the first to introduce Caleb Adam Wainwright to all of you! Praise the Lord!"
Though they’ had been caring for Caleb for more than two months, Adam and Jenny Wainwright, parents to four daughters, completed the adoption process for the boy. Jenny, while at the orthodontist with one of the girls, received word from the lawyer that everything had been approved. She texted her husband, who was back home cradling Caleb and getting daughter Sadee ready for ballet.
“When I got the text that it was official, my eyes welled up all over again,” Wainwright said. “Even though he’s been ours for over two months already, it became real to me that a guy with four daughters, I’ve got a little boy now to call my own. It’s so special.”
The Wainwrights' adoption journey traced back about eight years, Wainwright estimated, when he and Jenny first talked loosely about the idea. But a confluence of events leading into the 2018 season convinced them it was time. The first nudge came while the Wainwrights attended a Christian conference hosted by Pro Athletes Outreach. There, they spent time with Chad Qualls and his wife, Tara, who had been adopted when she was young. The couple had also just adopted a child of their own. Jenny and Tara talked for hours about that process.
Then came Super Bowl Sunday. The Wainwrights spent it, as they typically do, in Orlando, Fla., visiting with Adam's agent en route to the Cardinals’ spring complex in Jupiter. Wainwright’s agent took his company to church that Sunday for a sermon that, of all topics, centered on adoption. Signs continued to come in more subtle ways, too. They’d see a billboard encouraging parents to consider adoption, or read a post about the blessings of the process on social media. “You know how that kind of happens,” Wainwright said. “When you’re thinking about something in life, you just end up seeing it everywhere.”
But they still weren’t certain the timing was right, not with Adam about to begin another baseball season. A run of injuries changed that, however, and suddenly there seemed no better time than the present to initiate the process. While Wainwright nursed an elbow injury from May until September 2018, he and his wife began preparing to expand their family once again. First they had to make the call, something Wainwright described as “one of the hardest things in the process.” They vetted various adoption agencies and created video testimonials to introduce their family to expectant mothers. There was a lot of paperwork, visits from social workers, and letters of recommendation from friends.
“I’m not super excited that I was hurt last year, obviously,” Wainwright said. “I had a job to do, and I wasn’t able to perform. But what it did allow us to do was to engage in this chapter of our lives.”
By September, they had become active in the adoption registry. All that was left was to wait. It’s a wait that, for some families, can take years. For the Wainwrights, it lasted until January 2019, when they received a call that they had been selected by a mother due to give birth to a boy in Topeka, Kansas in February. Two days before her due date, Adam and Jenny Wainwright flew to Kansas to meet the woman and take her out to dinner. Her water broke later that night, and the baby boy arrived soon after. The Wainwrights chose to call him Caleb because of the Biblical significance behind that Hebrew name. He took his new father’s name, as well.
“Caleb Adam,” Wainwright repeated out loud. “We don’t even want to call him adopted anymore. He’s our son. He’s so special to me that I wanted him to know that. I wanted to give him my own name.”
Wainwright had only a few days to spend with Caleb before he had to return to Florida for the start of Spring Training. Jenny and their new baby boy joined him later in the month, once she had received clearance to leave Kansas. There, Caleb was smothered by his new sisters—Baylie (12), Morgan (10), Macy (6) and Sadee (3).
“I have five mothers in there at all times who constantly fight over getting to hold him,” Wainwright joked. “There will never be a lack of love for this little dude, I promise you that.”
For most of Spring Training, Wainwright was up around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. each night to assist with feedings. He’s involved in as much as his job will allow. The day of this interview, that meant waking with Caleb around 7:00 a.m. to help feed again.
“I’m looking and he’s just laughing and I’m feeding him, and I know today’s the today,” Wainwright said. “And he’s laughing, and I’m laughing. He can’t say a word yet, but he’s cooing and ooh-ing and aww-ing and all kinds of stuff, and we’re just having a full conversation. Those kinds of things, you just never forget that kind of stuff. It’s just so special.”
Wainwright was still holding Caleb hours later when that text came through to confirm that Caleb was now legally his son. “I just smooched him all over,” Wainwright said. “What’s been great about it is we’ve had to just put complete faith and trust in God in knowing that this is right. This is something that we felt like we were supposed to do, and we wanted to do. There are children that just need parents. We’ve got the room. We’ve got the love. It just makes your heart warm.” (Langosch - mlb.com - 4/25/19)
Oct 16, 2019: Shortly after his emergency five-out relief appearance ended, Adam Wainwright retreated to the visitors’ clubhouse at Nationals Park and went through his normal post-pitching routine. He was convinced the Cardinals’ season was not about to end, which meant he might have to pitch again.
As the Cardinals' lineup erased most of their seven-run deficit, Wainwright thought back to the last time they faced the Nationals in October: Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. Seven years ago, the Cards climbed out of a six-run hole that Wainwright put them in, stunned the Nats in the ninth inning and advanced to the NL Championship Series.
“It had 2012 written all over it, didn’t it?” Wainwright asked a group of reporters. “Didn’t it feel like that for a minute?”
The feeling faded, and this time, the Nationals celebrated. The Cardinals’ season is over, and Washington is headed to the World Series next week after a 7-4 victory over St. Louis in Game 4 of the NLCS. Now, the 38-year-old Wainwright must consider his future. Or he will, anyway, when he’s ready to think about it.
“I haven’t even thought about it. We’ll talk about it,” Wainwright said. “Right now, I’m just feeling for these guys in here. We battled through a lot of stuff this year, battled through a lot. People did not think we were going to be here. I think if you’d have asked all of Cardinal Nation in Spring Training, if we got to the NLCS, would they be happy? Most of them would probably say yes, I don’t know. But our ultimate goal is to win the World Series, and I know our fans’ goal is too. We’re all disappointed collectively. We could have done better, and we didn’t.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Cardinals’ final game, Wainwright shrugged off a handful of questions about what comes next. Wainwright's teammates certainly want to believe he’ll return for a 15th season with the Cardinals.
“I hope he’s back. I think he’s got more in the tank,” shortstop Paul DeJong said. “He’s done everything he can, recovery-wise, to be out there every day, and you have to give him credit for how unbelievable he really is.”
“The only person I’ve got to prove anything to is me,” Wainwright said. “I wanted to make all my starts, which I pretty much did, and I wanted to pitch well in the postseason. I did that. I could’ve always done better, but I was throwing the ball better in the postseason than I did all year, so I can hang my hat on that.”
“He’s everything the Cardinals could ever ask for. He has done everything you could possibly imagine to make an organization, to make a team so proud,” second baseman Kolten Wong said. “Waino is one of those guys I’ll cherish as a friend for the rest of my career, regardless of if he’s with us or not next year. I’m always going to be a fan.”
“Right now, I’m thinking about what just happened in these four games,” Wainwright said. “In just a minute, I’m going to be thinking about what kind of food I’ve got to eat in there. After that, I’m going to think about what kind of shampoo I’m going to use in the shower. Then, I’m going to think about which sock I’m going to put on first. Then, I’m going to think about going to kiss my beautiful wife. Then, I’m going to think about going to get on the bus. That is where my head is at right now.” (A Berry - MLB.com - Oct 16, 2019)
When 2020 Spring Training camps closed, Adam reached out to Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. Wainwright and his wife, Jenny, wanted to do something for players who needed help during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Wainwrights decided to turn to the nonprofit organization More Than Baseball. On March 26, 2020, More Than Baseball announced that the Wainwrights had donated $250,000 to the organization, and that money will be used specifically to help Cardinals Minor Leaguers.
Mozeliak said in an email that Wainwright chose the nonprofit organization to use for financial aid distribution to the Cardinals’ Minor League players, who will receive cash.
“The generosity shown by the Wainwrights during this time of uncertainty is exemplary,” Mozeliak said in a statement provided by More Than Baseball. “We are grateful for their contribution for those in need.”
More Than Baseball is dedicated to helping Minor League players with equipment discounts, housing assistance, healthy food, and careers after baseball. After camps shut down and teams, like the Cardinals, sent their Minor League players home, More Than Baseball has been raising funds and awareness for Minor Leaguers who are facing greater financial uncertainty than players already receiving Major League salaries.
“This donation is going to help so many ballplayers feel a little more stable during this national crisis,” said Simon Rosenblum-Larson, More Than Baseball’s president and director of player personnel. (Rogers - mlb.com - 3/26/2020)
April 1, 2020: Minor league non-profit @mtb_org has confirmed #Cardinals Adam Wainwright and his wife Jenny have donated $250,000 to provide assistance to Cardinals minor leaguers during the COVID-19 crisis. (@TheAthleticSTL)
April 27, 2020: Without throwing a pitch, Wainwright provided a thrill for fans who follow him on the social media platform, Twitter.
Unable to fall asleep, the Cardinals starting pitcher got out his guitar and performed two songs for his followers.
Wainwright performed “Danny’s Song” by Kenny Loggins, then followed up with “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day” by Luke Bryan, which was for former teammate and current New York Mets first baseman Matt Adams.
- Oct 2020: Adam will put on a headset and try out the broadcasting world this week as part of the Marlins-Braves NLDS on FOX Sports 1.
FOX Sports announced that the Cardinal veteran will join the FS1 booth as an analyst for Game 1. He’ll join a broadcast group that includes A.J. Pierzynski and play-by-play broadcaster Adam Amin.
It’s not unusual for an active player to take part in postseason broadcasts. Pierzynski was part of the FOX postseason broadcasts from 2011-2013 and in 2015 while he was still an active player. But it will be Wainwright’s first formal national broadcast appearance. He has long been a go-to in-game interview for broadcasters throughout his career, and this year he joined FOX Sports Midwest via Zoom during a regular-season game in which he wasn’t pitching. (A Rogers - MLB.com - Oct 5, 2020)
Nov. 7, 2020: Wainwright has decided to return for at least one more season. The 39-year-old could soon retire, but he had some help in deciding to make a return to the field in 2021.
Wainwright's son helped him make the decision to continue playing by pointing to the television and saying, "Daddy ball."
ROBERTO CLEMENTE AWARD
Dec. 7, 2020: Wainwright won the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually by MLB for community involvement and philanthropy.
In 2013, Adam Wainwright learned what could happen when he combined his love of fantasy football with his desire to help people.
The Cardinals pitcher had just completed his first Fantasy Football for Charity for his foundation, Big League Impact, founded that year with his brother, Trey. Wainwright saw what more than $110,000, split between two organizations, had done: With Operation Food Search, it filled thousands of backpacks with food for St. Louis-area students to take home on the weekends. With Water Mission, it built a clean water project in Honduras for an entire community.
“That one year from one fantasy draft with four tables of 12 people,” Wainwright said. “I just thought, ‘Wow, what a tremendous thing that was.’ It was powerful. If I played all 15 years just for the backpacks or just for the one water project there, that would have been worth it.”
Except Wainwright was just getting started.
What began as fantasy football for charity has developed into impact around the world, and that impact led Wainwright to being the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award winner. The award is considered to be the most prestigious individual player award presented by MLB. It annually recognizes one player who best represents the sport through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions.
When Wainwright got the phone call that he was the recipient this year, he was driving and “almost ran into an oak tree.”
He needed a moment to collect himself.
“This is the greatest honor of my entire career,” Wainwright said. “Just adds more fuel to the fire. It doesn’t have me stopping anything now.”
Wainwright has been nominated for the award five times and joins five other Cardinals who have won the award—Lou Brock (1975), Ozzie Smith (1995), Albert Pujols (2008), Carlos Beltran (2013) and Yadier Molina (2018). (A Rogers - MLB.com - Dec 7, 2020)
Sept 3, 2021: When the Cardinals opened their series against the Brewers, Adam Wainwright threw his first pitch of the game to Yadier Molina. It’s a given: If Molina is healthy and Wainwright is pitching, they started together. They have done so 25 times already this year.
It’s Brunswick, Ga., and Bayamón, Puerto Rico, coming together every five days to play catch. From the mound in Milwaukee, it marked 300 times—a milestone only three other sets of batterymates have reached before them. (And a tally that doesn’t include 14 more games started together in the postseason.)
The others? Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan (324 starts). Warren Spahn and Del Crandall (316). Red Faber and Ray Schalk (306).
“It's really a mind-blowing number, for me,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. “It speaks to the longevity. It speaks to each of their ability to compete well. It speaks well to the fact they want to stay in an organization for as long as they have. It's really an amazing, amazing accomplishment for both of them.”
That Molina and Wainwright are accomplishing this feat as two individuals in unison is what touches them most. Ask Wainwright about his individual accomplishments, he’ll blush and deflect. Ask Molina about his, he’ll point to the people who simply ensured his health along the way.
“When I look back on my career, when it’s all said and done, I know one of the things I’ll be most excited and proud to say is that I pitched to Yadier Molina for all these years,’” Wainwright said back in 2017. “I love this man,” Molina said recently. “As a human being. He’s a great teammate, he’s a great person.” (Z Silver - MLB.com - Sept 3, 2021)
- Nov. 2021: Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina will eat Thanksgiving dinner together in Puerto Rico.
The two are the closest of friends. They have been teammates for nearly two decades, have won a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals and are going to retire together after the 2022 season.
And they will also be eating Thanksgiving dinner together in Puerto Rico, with Wainwright revealing the news on the Toeing the Slab podcast featuring former pitcher David Cone. (Robert Murray - Nov. 3, 2021)
April 19, 2022: This was Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina's 307th regular-season start as a battery, passing Red Faber & Ray Schalk for the 3rd-most common regular-season starting battery since 1900. They trail only: (1) Mickey Lolich-Bill Freehan, with 324; and (2) Warren Spahn-Del Crandall, with 316.
For Adam to practice his craft at the highest level, he needs regular manicures.
“It didn’t start until they made those (harder) balls in 2018, 2019. That’s when it really started being bad,” Wainwright explained, displaying a small, dark bump just underneath the nail of the middle finger on his pitching hand. “I always get kind of a little blood blister like that, but my nail started breaking when we got those harder balls that were flying like crazy.
“A lot of people are usually pretty caught off guard that I’m in there.” This week’s back and forth discussion about the quality of baseballs currently being used in the majors — Chris Bassitt of the Mets was critical, Miles Mikolas of the Cardinals disagreed, and Wainwright said he was waiting until the weather warmed up to pass judgment — highlights the sensitivity that top-flight pitchers have in their hands. A lay person who picks up two random balls from the field at Busch Stadium might have difficulty in discerning many differences.
A professional whose livelihood in part relies on their ability to dig a nail between a ball’s seams to spin it toward home plate at a couple thousand revolutions per minute will be much more attuned to the differences. What sounds like a minor inconvenience can blossom into a major issue when it happens at an inopportune time. Closer Giovanny Gallegos was called into duty in the eighth inning during last year’s Wild Card game in Los Angeles, only to have one of his nails split. That left Gallegos unable to pitch the ninth, so he warmed up as a decoy, and then yielded to TJ McFarland and, eventually, Alex Reyes, who allowed a game-winning, season-ending home run to Chris Taylor after being pressed into service where he ordinarily, ideally would not have been.
The Cardinals’ training staff is well equipped to handle minor issues as they arise. Outfielder Corey Dickerson, for instance, took time during pregame this week to dive into a medical supply bag for a nail clipper and then returned to his work. St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright tips his cap to fans after getting the final out of a complete game, two-hit, shut-out of the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. Wainwright has employed manicures as part of his regular maintenance routine and suggested the practice to other teammates, including fellow hurler Génesis Cabrera, who also is now utilizing a manicurist.
WAINO PLEASED WITH SERVICE
Wainwright’s needs are somewhat more acute, so he decided to seek outside assistance. “I go to the salon and do it and sit there among people getting pedicures and manicures to get one (false) fingernail put on,” Wainwright explained, “and I leave out of there as fast as I can.”
Evidently he’s been pleased with the service, because he’s started making referrals to teammates. Hard-throwing lefty reliever Génesis Cabrera has had issues with his own middle fingernail for most of his career. At semi-regular intervals during the season — often in the middle of a game — the nail would split, and Cabrera would have to leave, putting his team in a difficult position and leaving him unavailable for a matter of days while he healed. Wainwright suggested his manicurist. Cabrera took him up on the suggestion. “You’ve got to do it right,” he said through Spanish translator and bullpen catcher Kleininger Teran.
Cabrera’s regimen is more intense even than Wainwright’s. He displayed a nail with a thick, clear coating not unlike a gel manicure. The coating, he explained, is a special polish designed to build up the nail’s natural strength and prevent breaking. The process has to be repeated every four days, so Cabrera is amid seeking out regular haunts he can visit on road trips. Last weekend, in Cincinnati, he took pictures and signed autographs — once his nail was dry, of course.
In 2019, a report published by MLB found that some irregularities in the manufacturing of baseballs had caused a drop in the seam height of an average ball of less than .001 inches — still enough to decrease drag on the baseball by 35%. That meant, for pitchers like Wainwright, the balls felt like “Pinnacles,” as he described them, referring to a brand of golf ball.
Still, one even less expected side effect of the manufacture of harder baseballs was the chance for Wainwright and his four daughters to turn some maintenance for work into a little bit of family bonding. “Sometimes I take my girls,” Wainwright said, “and we go and let them get manicures. I get my nail put on it and I make sure I go sit in the chair so everybody knows I’m not sitting there getting ... not that there’s anything wrong with it,” he added with haste. Despite patronizing a full-service salon, Wainwright has yet to avail himself of the other available nail care options. He’s not throwing any curveballs with his feet, so to date, he hasn’t felt the need to round off his visits with a matching pedicure. “There’s a lot of guys who get manicures and pedicures,” he noted. “I’m just not one of them. I don’t want people touching on me like that.” (Jeff Jones - April 30, 2022)
It is expected to be the last year for both St. Louis icons. Molina has publicly stated he will retire after the conclusion of the 2022 season, and while Wainwright has not made an official decision, he did say he was “almost certainly going to ride off with (Molina), but I’m not formally saying that,” during a press conference.
What Molina, 39, and Wainwright, 40, have done for the Cardinals (and the game of baseball) can’t be overstated. As baseball begins catering more toward young, explosive talent and power, the duo has proved longevity and an old-school approach still has a place in the game. They have charged the Cardinals back into the playoffs during a season that has seen Wainwright emerge as a dark horse candidate for the Cy Young and Molina continue to pad his inevitable Hall of Fame resume.
Two of the fiercest competitors in the modern game, there is a reason why Wainwright and Molina are one of the best duos in the game. They have racked up 304 career starts as batterymates, 20 starts behind Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan for the most in major-league history. It’s a record they hope to take hold of in 2022, when they return for the Cardinals for one more season.
But it’s also a record they might never have had the opportunity to pursue this year. Entering last year’s offseason, both Wainwright and Molina decided to truly test free-agency waters. For the first time in their careers, there was reasonable doubt whether they would return to St. Louis. And at one point, they almost didn’t. Brothers, family, godfathers. Their relationship, competitive spirit and desire to win will all be on display at Dodger Stadium with the season on the line.
Wainwright will toe the rubber and Molina will squat behind the plate, like they have done for the last 16 years. The Cardinals will rely on their prized battery and their beloved leaders for another electric start, like they have all season and like they have for years. The two of them, Molina and Wainwright, together. (Woo - TheAthletic.com - Oct 6, 2021)
May 2022: Adam talks about pitching to Yadier Molina, his love for baseball, and pitching at the age of 40.
.com: You are having a productive season at age 40. Why is that the case?
Wainwright: It’s not impossible. Look at what Justin Verlander is doing, coming right (after) Tommy John at 39 years old. Guys like that are inspirations to me. You look around and you say, "All right, [Verlander] is almost one year younger than I am, still dominating, probably still leading the Cy Young race over [in the American League]."
Guys like that who continue to do well just show me that I can do it, too. Obviously, he has way better stuff than I do. It’s fun to see guys who have been good for a long time still be good and not give in to that age thing that people just assume you are not going to be good as you get older. I don’t buy into that. Not at all. I wish I was as clever as I am now. I was pretty tricky, but I’m a lot more tricky now. That’s part of growing up. It’s part of getting older and becoming more wise to the game and being able to pick up on things a little faster.
MLB.com: You said something very interesting. You said you know things now more than when you were younger. What’s the biggest thing you learned now that you didn’t know when you were younger?
Wainwright: One thing I really learned is to be comfortable in my own skin, be comfortable in what I do as a pitcher and not try to be anybody else. There were a few years there—like 2016, 2017 and 2018 when I was injured a little bit—even when I was in the prime of my career, I would watch other pitchers and try to replicate what they were doing. Sometimes that’s good. You always want to keep moving the needle and try to become better.
Now I’m OK throwing an 86 mile an hour fastball every now and then. Mad Dog (Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux) really helped me with this. He made me realize what I do is make pitches. I’m a professional pitch maker and being OK with whatever the velocity looks like getting there, getting on the corner, getting it in the location I’m trying to throw it. That is the main thing, executing pitches like Roy Halladay used to say.
MLB.com: So there was a point you would think, my fastball has to be 100, stuff like that, right?
Wainwright: Well, I had a teammate, Carlos Martínez, who can sit 100 if he wanted to, just incredible stuff. I was watching the reaction from the hitters, the reaction of my teammates. It was, “Oh, man. Look at Carlos. He is doing such great things.” And I’m going, “I have to try to throw harder. I have to try and do this,” instead of just being really good at what I was doing.
Watching a guy like Kyle Hendricks is a real testimony to that. He is so fun to watch. He will go out there and throw 70% fastballs at 86, 87 miles an hour and throw a shutout on 85 pitches. If you are pitching and you’re changing speeds, changing location and you are throwing in the corners, it almost doesn’t matter how hard you throw.
MLB.com: Is there a stat out there that lets you know that you are having a good year?
Wainwright: I think you look at the traditional ones. This was a conversation I had with the Braves guys— Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. They all had different opinions. Smoltzy wanted to lead the league in innings. Maddux wanted to lead the league in ERA. And Glavine wanted to lead the league in wins. All of them have their merits. But at the end of the day, the win is still the most important stat in the game of baseball.
MLB.com: You are close to 200 wins. How do you feel about getting there?
Wainwright: I feel good about wanting to do it. (Laughing) Sometimes you can’t affect how those wins come out. You can go out and throw a one-run game, pitch eight innings and lose the game if you are pitching against the wrong guy. But most of the time and you are … going deep into the game, you are going to give your team a chance to win that game. That’s the main thing for me. Every year, I want to lead the league in innings. I kind of lean on that innings number (as well) a little bit. I want to lead the league in innings this year. I missed a start already, which bothers me a little bit, but that means I have to go deep in the games from now on. If you lead the league in innings, usually, you are going to have a chance to win more games.
(Former teammate) Woody Williams told me when I was rookie, “If you want to win a game, you have to go at least seven innings.” I hope people get back to that mindset because five and dodge is not it.
MLB.com: Every time I read about you, Georgia, your home state, is always mentioned. Do you think about what might have been with the Braves?
Wainwright: No. Whatever would have been with the Braves would not have topped what we have been able to accomplish in St. Louis. My time in St. Louis is so special to me. That was a trade that worked out for me in so many ways. I can't even believe it.
I love being in the Midwest. I love being in St. Louis. The city of St. Louis has adopted my family. My wife loves it in St. Louis. The kids love it in St. Louis. I don’t look back on anything of what might have been. Everything that happened in the past has led me where I am today. It’s not hard to complain about being a Major League pitcher at 40 years old.
MLB.com: You made your mark in St. Louis. What are you most proud of?
Wainwright: Just being part of one of the best eras in Cardinals baseball is a big deal. We’ve had a pretty good run of playoff teams, World Series teams, championship teams for a long time. Most of the years I’ve been here, we had a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for. Being on a winning team, that's just as much as you can ask for.
MLB.com: The thing I remember most was, you were a closer earlier in your career. Did you ever think about being a great closer?
Wainwright: I think I could have been OK for a while as a closer for sure. But I'm glad to be starting. I think starting is the best job in the history of the world. A starting pitcher in the big leagues, it doesn’t get better than that. That is the best job in the world. It’s the best job for your golf game.
MLB.com: How do you figure that?
Wainwright: When you are relieving every day, you might not want to walk 18 holes at Oakmont or Winged Foot. You want to save some energy. But when you are starting, you know when you are pitching. You know you have a few days in between where you can work out, run and all that stuff. You have a few days in between where you have some days where you go out in the morning and have some fun. We played in some cities where the golf courses were remarkable. It’s good to get out there.
MLB.com: You have been with the Cardinals your entire Major League career. What's is like having Yadier Molina on your side?
Wainwright: He has been more than a friend and teammate to me. He has been a brother to me. The guy I have gotten so close with. How fortunate am I to throw to the best defensive catcher of all time my entire career? We are the winningest battery, which set the all-time record the other day. I have 189 wins personally. All but 15 of my wins have been with Yadi. That’s kind of crazy when you think about it.
MLB.com: Tell me something about Yadi that people don’t know about?
Wainwright: I have a great answer for that. Yadi is a Puerto Rican guy. He is very proud of his country, very proud of his heritage. But you know what he really loves? Country music. You know who he really loves? The Zac Brown Band. He knows every song and every word by the Zac Brown Band and most of Luke Bryan’s songs, too. We went to the Zac Brown concert a couple of years ago, and Yadi sang every song as loud as he could. It was just a great time. Most people don’t know that about Yadi.
MLB.com: I know you had COVID, recently. How disappointing was that?
Wainwright: The disappointing thing was, I had it in January. I got pretty sick. It was three days of flu-like symptoms, I was hot, cold, fever. Two days after that, I had no energy whatsoever—stand up, head rush, lay back down. I was zapped.
The thing that disappointed me this time was that I didn’t have a single symptom. Not a sniffle. I never would have known that I had Covid if I hadn’t been a contact tracer to somebody and had to get tested. But the good thing is, you take a start off. I could look at it and really be upset. I didn’t do that. I look at it as an opportunity.
I got my body to completely rest and took a start off. My back feels great. Knees feel great. Arm feels great. I was able to get everything right in the training room and be ready for the next start because it’s a long season. Who knows? I’ll probably be close to 32 starts, hopefully.
MLB.com: How much do you have left in the tank?
Wainwright: I have no idea. I might have one start left. I might have 20 starts left. I try not to think about it. I stay in the present. I might have 50 starts. I’m not sure. What I try to do is stay where I’m at because every time I look forward too far and start planning for the future, I have a setback. Every time I look back and I think I should have done blah, blah, blah different, then I take my eyes off the present. I don’t get as much out of what I’m doing or where I’m at. I just live where I am. Lessons learned in the past lead me to where I’m at right now. Don’t get too far into the future. Just enjoy where I am.
MLB.com: I noticed you are jolly. Where did you get your personality?
Wainwright: A lot of different ways to get that. I was raised in a happy house. My mom did a great job raising me. My brothers are great influences in my life. I always like having fun. I have great friends surrounding me. I live life with a passion for living with the Lord. He instilled that in me. When I wake up in the morning, I look outside and say, “Man, what a creation this is. What a beautiful day this is.”
I think that’s the way we are supposed to live. Enjoying what we have been blessed with, enjoying our surroundings and the people we are around, doing interviews with people like you. All these things that come with baseball come with living this life. For me, I’m a Major League Baseball player for one of the best organizations in the history of baseball. Since I’ve been 3 years old, the only thing I wanted to do in the world was play baseball for a living. So, why would I not be jolly? Golly, I get to live that out. (B Ladson - MLB.com - May 25, 2022)
Sept. 14, 2022: Wainwright and Molina made their 325th start as a battery, setting the record for most appearances by a pitcher and catcher in baseball history.
A sellout crowd of 46,459 had gathered at Busch Stadium to witness history, as Molina and Wainwright prepared to break the MLB record for most starts as a battery.
“I looked around and I see everybody cheering and clapping, it was just great times,” Molina recalled. “Emotionally I was way over the top.”
“The crowd was so awesome, making me get just constant chills and tear up,” Wainwright echoed. “I was trying to manage my adrenaline because I was wanting to just go through the roof. More than anything, I’ll remember that. I’ll remember walking in from the bullpen with Yadi and the crowd going crazy.”
The trek to the home dugout didn’t take longer than a minute or so. Molina and Wainwright remained in equal stride, Wainwright with his head down in determination, Molina still wearing his catcher’s mask. When they crossed the foul line, Wainwright leaned to his right and fist-bumped his catcher. Molina tossed the ball the duo had warmed up with into the stands. They proceeded into the dugout for a few minutes, exchanging high fives with their teammates, while a video montage of their career highlights played on the scoreboard, something Wainwright admittedly watched from the bench.
Wainwright’s first pitch was a called strike to Yelich on the outside corner — a pitch Yelich was taking all the way — and once the ball had popped into Molina’s glove, the record book could be rewritten with career start No. 325. They had been batterymates for the last 15 seasons, but with this historic start in the Cardinals’ eventual 4-1 win over the Brewers, Wainwright and Molina can be deemed baseball’s battery.
“Next to the Roberto Clemente Award, this is probably the coolest thing for me in my career, honestly,” Wainwright said, beaming.
“He’s been amazing,” Wainwright said in reference to Molina's play. “He’s just been amazing. It’s really the only way to say it. This guy’s caught 18 years and is always taking the ball, rising to the occasion.
“He’s just been such a professional, and such a great teammate and competitor, and he’s made me better. Really, he’s just made me a better pitcher.”
Wednesday’s start had just as much meaning for Molina, who donned a custom-designed mask for the event. The number 325, along with an image of him and Wainwright reaching in for a fist bump, is portrayed on the top. On one side there is a 50, Wainwright’s number. On the other, Molina’s No. 4 is displayed. “It’s such a great feeling, just to reach that number,” Molina said. “Hopefully, the record will never be broken, but it’s a great feeling. And doing it with Waino, a great human being, is just amazing. … He’s a really great teammate, a friend and a brother to me.” (Woo-TheAthletic-Sep 15, 2022)