By Jill Ewert
Standing tall at 6’ 7”, Adam Wainwright is an intimidating figure—something that certainly plays to his advantage as a Major League pitcher. But get him talking about his daughter, and you’d never know that the 25-year-old makes a living paralyzing big-league sluggers with his breaking curveball. In fact, when talking about little Baylie Grace, Wainwright barely resembles the man who struck out Detroit’s Brandon Inge for the final out of the 2006 World Series, giving the St. Louis Cardinals their first World Championship since 1982.
But covering up his inner softie while on the mound is something that Wainwright is getting used to...and good at. Beginning the 2007 season for the first time in a Major League starting rotation, Wainwright dismantled the Houston Astros in his first game, allowing just one earned run in seven strong innings and compelling Cards manager Tony La Russa to say, “Wainwright’s for real.” Undoubtedly, was Baylie Grace old enough to express it herself, she would have said the same thing.
STV: You were pretty under-the-radar until last fall’s World Series victory. How has your life changed since then?
Adam Wainwright: Tremendously. Nobody knew who I was last year, and probably most people still don’t—they probably think I’m a basketball player.
But it is nice to come home (to Georgia) and have people congratulate you. I come from a small town, and everyone at home is so proud of the hometown kid. And in St. Louis, the fans are the greatest. They’re great baseball fans in general, and they love their Cardinals. It’s nice when they recognize you. It lets you know that you are coming along and are successful at your job.
“His being a Christian is just another plus, because he and I can connect on a different
level. I’ve always respected him, so when he talks, I listen. And now we have other
things to talk about.”
– Wainwright on Cards catcher Yadier Molina
STV: You are remembered specifically for throwing the last strike of the 2006 World Series. Describe that last pitch.
AW: [Brandon Inge] is such a tough hitter, and he hit a double off me the night before to tie the game. So, mentally I was thinking, This is a tough hitter. Let’s show him a different look. And once I got two strikes on him, I was going to throw the best slider I could out of the strike zone and see if I could get him to chase it. If he put it into play, hopefully it was going to be hit softly. But I was just thinking, I’m going to throw the nastiest slider I can throw out of the strike zone, and hopefully we’ll be the champs.
After that, I don’t really remember much, because we were just going crazy. It was really a feeling of disbelief. We had come so far last year. We went from almost not getting
into the playoffs to winning the whole thing—a complete 180 in the confidence of our whole team.
STV: Your catcher for that play, Yadier Molina, like you, is a Christian. How important is the pitcher-catcher relationship when you are on the field?
AW: I would say it’s very important. When you have a catcher back there that you believe in and trust to block every ball, and when you trust his pitch-calling ability, it makes everything easier. You don’t have to think nearly as much.
And Yadier makes everybody’s job easier. To me, he’s the best catcher in the game. Obviously, I haven’t thrown to all of them, but it’s hard for me to believe that there is a better defensive catcher. Not only that, but he makes you believe in yourself and makes you trust him. His being a Christian is just another plus, because he and I can connect on a different level. I’ve always respected him, so when he talks, I listen. And now we have other things to talk about.
STV: Regarding your faith, how did you become a Christian?
AW: I grew up going to church. My mom was a single parent, and she took my brother and me to church every Sunday that she could. It was a case of my going to church and claiming to be a Christian, but I really wasn’t walking the walk.
A few years ago, I hired an agent named Steve Hammond. And then one of my best friends is Blaine Boyer, who plays for the Braves. They started talking to me a lot about my faith, and they got me to go to a conference through Professional Athletes Outreach (PAO). And at this conference, every speaker was unbelievable. Their knowledge of Christ and God was just incredible.
That was a learning experience for three or four days; and the whole time I was there I felt like a new guy. I went there one man, and I left a different man. Those days really made a difference in my life. It is one thing to say you are a Christian, but it is another to act like it.
STV: Would you say you were already a Christian before you went to that conference?
AW: I would say I was marginally. I was a building process. A few years ago, I had a lot of work to do—and I still have a ton of work to do—but the difference now is that I am saying it. And now I really believe that when I die, I will go to Heaven. Before, I would have said, “Man, I hope I go.”
STV: Has your rise in fame affected your walk with Christ?
“It is one thing to say you are a Christian, but it is another to act like it.”
AW: I think fame is what you make of it. Right now, I don’t think I am very famous. Maybe inside the stadium walls, but once I get out, nobody really knows who I am, and I like that. I think the main difference is the stage I’m playing on now. I get to show and speak about faith and be a motivating factor for younger Christians who hopefully will look at me like I look at Albert Pujols and David Eckstein, and they’ll want to live like that, too.
STV: What are some of the things your Chrisitan teammates, guys like Pujols and Eckstein, have taught you about being a man of God?
AW: Well, I think another guy, too, that I get to spend time with is (pitcher) Braden Looper. Looper is a family guy just like me; and it is God, family and then baseball. And the first thing he said to me coming into camp was, “I am going to make you grow spiritually this year.” And to hear that coming into camp is cool. It’s a neat experience when you come in and know that there are other guys who are helping you grow bothspiritually and as a man.
STV: You mentioned your status as a family man. You and your wife, Jenny, just had your first child last summer.
AW: We did. We had our first baby on Sept. 10, Baylie Grace. She has been a blessing to us. The week she was born, I remember feeling like I had five-pound dumbbells attached to my eyelids. The team was in Phoenix, and I found out in the second inning that Jenny’s water had broken, but I couldn’t get out that night until 11 o’clock. Then I had to fly from Phoenix to Atlanta back to St. Louis. I got there five minutes before she started to deliver, which was only 20 minutes before Baylie was born. It couldn’t have been better timing. I tease my wife that pregnancy seemed pretty easy to me.
And Baylie was supposed to come on Oct. 5, but I think she knew the playoffs were coming and that she needed to get out so that Dad could have some sleep before the playoffs started.
S TV: How has being a dad changed you?
“I have the greatest wife of all time. I couldn’t do what I do without her ... When I go to the field during the season, I’m gone from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., and she’s got Baylie all day. It’s almost like she’s a single mom.”
AW: You don’t know how much you can love something until you have a baby. It’s so nice to wake up in the morning, and when she starts fussing, I walk over to her and she lights up with a big smile. That is the greatest feeling in the world. She starts crying when someone else is holding her, and when I grab her she stops. I love it!
She is young now, but she is going to be a motivating factor for me to stay in line and walk the way I’m supposed to walk. You want to be an example to your kids, and hopefully I will be.
STV: How has the support at home helped you?
AW: I have the greatest wife of all time. I couldn’t do what I do without her. And she is the greatest mom of all time, too. It’s tough being a baseball mom. When I go to the field during the season, I’m gone from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., and she’s got Baylie all day. It’s almost like she’s a single mom.
My job is tough on the family sometimes, but she is so understanding. She even lets me sneak out for a golf game or two during Spring Training.
It goes back to what I was saying about my daughter. It’s nice to know that when you come home, people love you that much and are wanting, and kind of needing, your presence. Jenny respects me as the spiritual leader of the household, and I respect everything she has to say to me.
STV: You mentioned that your job is tough in some aspects. What is the toughest thing about being a pro athlete?
AW: I think the toughest thing is staying in check mentally all year. It is a long season, so avoiding those highs and lows and keeping an even head is really tough.
STV: On the flip-side, what is the best thing?
AW: The best thing is that it is what I always wanted to do, ever since being a kid. People would ask me what I wanted to do, and I would say I wanted to be a pro baseball player. They’d say, “Oh, that’s nice. But what else?” And, now, to get to live that out is just a dream come true.
|Adam Wainwright #50|
Born: 08/30/1981 Birthplace: Brunswick, Ga.
Height: 6-7 Weight: 205 lbs.
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB Debut: Sept. 11, 2005
Former Cardinal and current St. Louis FCA Area Director Rick Horton, who serves as one of the Cardinals’ television broadcasters, leads a Bible study for the team every week during the summer homestands.
Wainwright on FCA:
“There is a lot of temptation in sports. I think in our game, especially professionally, FCA and the different groups keep you in check, and they get you thinking about your actions before things can take place. They keep you accountable. I know that is one reason it helps me tremendously—being good as a person, father and teammate.”
For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com