Summer 2024

Cardinals' Adam Wainwright surprises team, sings national anthem at final opening day

St. Louis Cardinals legend Adam Wainwright was hoping to perform in what would be the final opening day of his 19-year MLB career. But during a workout while with the U.S. team for the recent World Baseball Classic, Wainwright strained his groin and was put on the injured list to start the season.

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That didn’t stop him from performing in a different capacity Thursday at the Cardinals’ home-opener: He sang the national anthem, to the surprise of teammates and fans. And it was incredible.

Wainwright’s love of music is no secret if you follow him on Twitter, and he’s reportedly begun recording an album comprised of original songs, performing at a couple benefit concerts for his nonprofit Big League Impact. But he’s never sang in front of a crowd like Thursday’s — 47,649.

Wainwright said Friday morning on Twitter that it was an unforgettable moment, which is saying something considering how many big moments he’s shared with the Cardinals.

Last season, Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina set an MLB record by reaching 325 starts together, and they also recorded an MLB-record 213 wins together.

Furthermore, Wainwright’s 195 career wins are third in franchise history, his 390 starts are also third, his 457 games played are fourth and his 2,147 strikeouts are second. He’s a three-time All-Star (2010, 2013, 2014), two-time NL wins leader (2009, 2013) and two-time Gold Glove winner (2009, 2013). He was a young reliever on the 2006 Cardinals team that won the World Series, but unfortunately missed the entire 2011 season due to injury as the Cardinals won their 11th world championship.

He’s hoping to help the franchise claim its 12th in his final season. St. Louis won the NL Central last year and has been to the postseason the past four seasons, but hasn’t advanced to the World Series since 2013.

Knowing this is his final season, Wainwright also knows it’s his last year to pour into teammates on a regular, daily basis. He’s long been a leader on the field, but also off the field, especially as it pertains to faith matters. Years ago he started a “Studs in the Word” text thread with teammates interested in Bible studies and conversations about God, and he’s led some of those teammates through the Bible in a year with the Bible Engagement Journal. He also regularly brings teammates to the annual Pro Athletes Outreach conference, which is where he gave his life to Christ in 2002.

In the fall of 2018, Wainwright thought his career might be done after he struggled through an injury-riddled season. But he wanted to keep playing largely because he wanted to continue to pour into the faith journeys of younger teammates.

“We are looked up to as leaders, and naturally we have an ‘in’ with the younger players simply because we have the knowledge and experience that they want to learn from,” Wainwright told Sports Spectrum. “When we can also speak into their lives on deeper matters — on things besides baseball — it provides a huge opportunity for us to share Christ’s love with those who are eager to hear what we have to say.”

Stemming from his discipleship of teammates, Wainwright felt nudges from the Lord to also help fans and social media followers in their relationships with God. So in 2020, Wainwright led 22,000 people through the Bible in a year, then continued in 2021. It was a big time commitment, but well worth using the platform he’d established as a MLB pitcher to spread God’s Word.

“The first week of that, I remember saying, ‘I did not know what I was getting myself into,’” Wainwright told Sports Spectrum. “I said [to my wife], ‘Jenny, you’re going to have to help me through this because I feel like this might be the most important thing I’ve ever done.’”

He’s left many memories with many people during his time in baseball, and as he showed Thursday, he’s not quite done yet.

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