You Won't Believe What St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Pitcher Adam Wainwright Does Before Games
Adam Wainwright is among baseball’s most fearless and versatile pitchers, always adjusting his game with great success.
“I like to think of myself as a guy who can mold into whoever I need to be for that given game,” says Adam. “If a guy has a glaring weakness and it matches up against one of my strengths, then I attack it. So my style can vary from game to game.”
He’s the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff. But Adam began his Major League career as a closer, throwing the final strikeout to win the 2006 World Series.
“My role was slowly built up in big spots, gradually bigger and bigger and bigger, until when it was the biggest stage of the year, I was prepared for it,” says Adam. “As a starting pitcher, every game, there’s a couple of plays that swing the game to be a win or a loss. And if you can make a pitch when you need to get out of those big spots, then you win the game.”
Adam then moved from the bullpen to the rotation, emerging as the Cardinals most reliable starting pitcher over the next four seasons. Along the way he anchored his faith, responding to a pastor’s message that redefined his understanding of Christianity.
“He was talking about relationship and how there’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation,” says Adam. “We’re all lost and we all need the grace of God, it made sense to me. Jesus was – He was pursuing me and I finally was ready to let Him catch me.”
After back-to-back 19 and 20 win seasons, Adam blew out his elbow the following spring training. The injury required Tommy John surgery. His 2011 season was lost. In the moment of crisis with his career threatened, Adam’s wife Jenny put things in perspective.
“She looks at me right in the eyes and she says, ‘you’re my husband, my spiritual leader, you’re my kids’ father. You’re so much more to me than this game of baseball.’ And I just took tremendous pleasure in that,” says Adam. “Just knowing that my identity to her, to myself, with my teammates, was not so much as a player. It was as a Godly man, a Christ-following man. In the house and out of the house.”
His yearlong recovery and rehab prepared him for his on-field return at the start of the 2012 season. But post-surgery adjustments had to be made.
“My fastball wasn’t fast and my curveball wasn’t very good, my slider wasn’t sliding, my sinker wasn’t sinking and my change wasn’t changing,” says Adam. “I’m just going to try to do some different stuff. A hitter has certain timing with his hands and with his footwork. So if you can do something in your delivery to vary that, and mix that up so that they get off just a smidge on their timing, then you’ve created an edge.”
An edge that’s armed the 6’ 7” Wainwright with a new skill set, adding to his reputation as an accomplished pitcher. He was rewarded with a contract extension. Since 2008, Adam has the highest winning percentage of any current National League pitcher.
It’s easy to think that a two-time Cy Young award runner-up would rely more on what's brought him success, but not Adam. Instead he continually reinvents himself as a pitcher, using more unpredictability to keep hitters guessing.
“I change my speeds up and my delivery times to the plate,” says Adam. “One time I’ll go slow and throw a slow curveball. Next time I’ll go really fast and throw a slow curveball. Or I may speed my curveball up 5 miles an hour, or I might take a little off my fastball and make it move a little bit more. I might go from the right side of the rubber once, the left side of the rubber the next time.”
Adam’s approach would throw most pitchers off course. His unconventional experimentation during games requires risk and courage.
“At some level you have to point to my faith and say that I’m freed up to a way of playing baseball that it’s allowed me to go out there and play fearless,” says Adam. “God has granted me the strength, mentally, to believe. I think the freedom out there to completely be me and have fun just mixing and matching. I think that freedom only comes from a relationship with Christ.”
That physical and spiritual freedom has allowed Adam’s arm to heal, while transforming the 3-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner from a thrower into a pitcher.
“It gives you tremendous confidence going forward,” says Adam. “And so now that my stuff is back, my arm feels healthy and feels strong again. I still have that same wisdom that I can draw from. But now I have the stuff to match it. So it it should be a tough mix.”
Adam Wainwright, face of the Cardinals franchise! Successfully turning a setback into a comeback – by choosing to make his biggest pitch count!
“Acts 20:24, it says ‘For my life means nothing to me unless I use it to fulfill the mission given by the Lord Jesus Christ.’ And that is the mission of telling the world the wonderful grace of God,” says Adam. “And so if I’m not using my life, this platform, for good, for the kingdom, then I’m completely wasting it. My goal is to constantly keep my eyes on Jesus. And if I constantly do that, I’ll have a greater impact.”