21 MLB players to watch in 2021: St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright

Through the month of March, leading up to MLB Opening Day on April 1,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting 21 Christ-following players to watch in 2021.

Adam Wainwright is set to add another chapter to his storied career with the St. Louis Cardinals this season after signing a one-year contract in January. He’s entering his 16th season (17th if you include the season he missed in 2011).

It was actually an eventful free agency period for him, he said, as he had legitimate suitors with offers he seriously considered. Several teams were after his services following a season in which he produced a 5-3 record and a 3.15 earned run average — his lowest since the 2015 season.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

But ultimately the 39-year-old chose to return to the only team he’s spent his major league career with.

“I’m really glad it worked out the way it did because I’m coming home,” Wainwright told FOX Sports. “I’m glad to be a St. Louis Cardinal. I love being a St. Louis Cardinal. I think there’s some things that I really like about this chance, our chances of winning this year.”

Wainwright is one of the most accomplished pitchers in recent baseball history. A three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner who’s finished in the top three of Cy Young Award voting four times, he also holds the Cardinals’ all-time record in postseason starts with 28. He ranks third all-time among Cardinals in wins (167), second in strikeouts (1,830) and sixth in innings pitched (2,169.1).

Wainwright broke onto the scene as a closer during his rookie season in 2006, where he famously struck out Mets star Carlos Beltran with his famous curveball to win Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. He also recorded the final out of the World Series that year with a strikeout of Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge to help give the Cardinals their 10th World Series Championship.

What many people have found appealing about Wainwright, though, is his character, leadership and what he means for a clubhouse.

In November, he was named the 2020 recipient for the Roberto Clemente Award, recognizing a player’s commitment to their community and efforts to help others. Throughout 2020, Wainwright led more than 22,000 people through reading the Bible in a year. He called it “one of the most powerful things of my entire life, honestly.”

He was also outspoken about supporting his Black friends and teammates during the racial and social justice unrest that broke out last summer.

“It’s very simple to me,” Wainwright told reporters. “And I’ll tell you this, as a Christian man, my job first and foremost is to love my neighbor, and to love my teammates and to love my friends and my family the best way I know how.”

In 2013, Wainwright and his wife, Jenny, started a nonprofit called Big League Impact, which focuses on bringing athletes and fans together to raise money for charities through contests like fantasy football leagues. It has raised $3.1 million and supported 45 different charities.

Last season, through BLI, the Wainwrights donated $250,000 to More Than Baseball for financial assistance to Cardinals minor league players. MTB is a program aimed at evaluating financial need and raising money to help minor leaguers make it through difficult financial situations.

Now looking ahead to a full 2021 season, Wainwright told reporters that he wanted to play for a team that could win a World Series this year. If the Cardinals make a run, his stability in the pitching rotation and leadership in the clubhouse will be a big reason why.

21 MLB Players to Watch in 2021
— Pitcher Adam Wainwright re-signs with Cardinals, lauded as ‘highly-respected team leader’
Adam Wainwright says leading thousands through Bible may be ‘most important thing’
— Adam Wainwright receives Roberto Clemente Award for work with many organizations
Garth Brooks joins pitchers Adam Wainwright, Kyle Gibson to serve 4 million meals to kids