Fall 2021 SS Magazine

'Family first' pitcher Adam Wainwright went on IL to help wife and kids through COVID

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright made his return from the COVID-19 injured list Monday, picking up his first win of the season in the Cardinals’ 6-5 victory over the New York Mets.

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Wainwright never tested positive for the coronavirus though. He explained after Monday’s game he went on the IL to care for his wife and five kids, all of whom were battling COVID.

“We got back from the road, and I went straight to a hotel because my whole crew had it, and my wife, she texted me at one point and said, ‘I can’t go anymore without you being here,'” said Wainwright, who is fully vaccinated. “So I had to. That’s why I had to go home, and when my wife says that, she’s a tough lady, she’s a really tough girl, and so when she said that, I knew I had to go home.”

The decision was made with the full support of manager Mike Shildt.

“Family first, man, went to take care of his family,” Shildt said after the game. “A lot of respect for that guy, and he was clear, [there] wasn’t any second guessing about it. ‘I’ve got to go home and be a good dad and good husband, be strong for my family.’ It’s the right thing to do.”

Wainwright went 5 2/3 innings in his return, marking the fifth consecutive outing he pitched at least five innings. He threw a complete game and gave up two runs in his previous start against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 26. He’s now 1-3 on the season with a 4.72 ERA.

Putting his family first is not a surprise for the 39-year-old. Adam and his wife, Jenny, have daughters Baylie, Morgan, Macy and Sadee Faith, but three years ago felt called to adopt. Two years ago, they received official word that a baby boy they’d been taking care of was theirs. They had been approved to be the child’s adoptive parents, and named him Caleb Adam Wainwright.

“Even though he’s been [with us] 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. I smooched him all over,” Wainwright told the St. Louis Post-Distpatch in April 2019.

“What’s been great about [the adoption] is we’ve had to just put complete faith and trust in God, in knowing that this is right,” Wainwright continued. “This is something that we felt like we were supposed to do, and we wanted to do. We wanted another child. What we really wanted to do was we wanted to step into that story of adoption. We’ve got the room. We’ve got the love.”

Wainwright has long been vocal about his faith in Christ and is one of the spiritual leaders in the Cardinals’ clubhouse. That’s a big reason he chose to return to the only big league team he’s known this offseason despite having more lucrative offers elsewhere.

In 2020, Wainwright led 22,000 people through the Bible in a year, and he’s continued in 2021 for those following Walking With Waino on Twitter. The idea started with a Bible Engagement Plan his financial advisor and spiritual mentor, Don Christensen, created. Christensen showed it to Wainwright, who went through it himself and then led some teammates and friends through the plan.

The feedback was extremely positive and he felt a calling to do more.

“I’m getting this feedback from guys saying, ‘This is really helping me. This is powerful stuff, man. I’m in my Bible more than I’ve ever been, so thanks. This is really helping me grow my faith,’” Wainwright told Sports Spectrum in December. “And I started getting this little tug. Every day it was like, ‘Adam, you’re supposed to do this on a bigger level.’ That’s what I really felt like I was hearing, and I kept arguing with this little voice in my head. I’m like, ‘Nah, nah. I’m not doing this on a bigger level. I don’t even know what that means.’”

The idea spread quickly thanks to Wainwright’s home church in Georgia and social media. All of a sudden, 22,000 people had signed up.

The 16-year veteran has also been involved in numerous charitable efforts throughout his career and received the Roberto Clemente Award in December 2020 for his service to the community and those in need.

St. Louis brings a five-game winning streak into a doubleheader against the Mets on Wednesday after rain forced Tuesday’s game to be postponed. The first game gets underway at 5:15 p.m. ET. Wainwright’s next start is scheduled for Sunday against Colorado.

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