Adam Wainwright, a right-handed starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, grew up in a single-parent Christian home with his mom and older brother, Trey, where he went to Sunday school, to church, to Vacation Bible School, as well as Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. But despite all the positive input while growing up, he did not become a Christian at that time.
“I had doubts and was always questioning”
“I am a true testament that just because you grew up in church does not mean you are a Christian or believer,” Wainwright says. “I had doubts and was always questioning. Not that I didn’t believe in God, [but] I wasn’t listening to anything He wanted to tell me, and I was not ready to have Him in my life.
“Mom was a typical single mother who worked two jobs—dad not around—always making sure Trey and I were taken care of, fed, going to good schools, hanging out with the right crowd and making sure we were in church,” Wainwright adds.
Trey Wainwright, who is seven years older than Adam, is now an attorney in Atlanta. “Trey taught me everything I know about sports—anything with a ball—that is baseball, football, basketball, soccer, tennis, and golf. He was there to teach me. He was like a father figure, and we are still close.”
Wainwright faced the decision to go to college or straight to the pros
During his senior year in high school, Wainwright was faced with the decision of whether to go to college or straight into professional baseball. He played baseball at Glynn Academy in St. Simons Island, Georgia, and during his senior year received several offers of athletic and academic scholarships. Coach Danny Hall from Georgia Tech offered Adam a full ride.
Wainwright’s brother, Trey, had graduated from Georgia Tech and was ecstatic about the prospect of Adam playing baseball there. But their mom, Nancy, appreciated what Coach Hall told her during a meeting: “As much as Coach Hall wanted Adam to attend Georgia Tech, he advised us, ‘If Adam goes in the first three rounds of the 2000 draft, Adam should go for it because he is a special talent,’” Nancy says. “After Adam was drafted by his childhood favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, the second or third call to Adam was from Coach Hall congratulating him. That was class!”
Ten days after graduating, Wainwright was off to the minor leagues
Ten days after graduating from high school in 2000, Wainwright was off to the minor leagues. His mom says, “I was happy for Adam, but I was not prepared for it. Adam said since five years old that he wanted to be a pro baseball player, and to see him live out his dream is just an unbelievable experience.”
In 2004, Adam married his high school sweetheart, Jenny Curry, who graduated from Georgia Southern with a degree in interior design in 2003. Like Adam, Jenny grew up attending church with her parents and two younger siblings. “It was during the first year I was married that I really understood the true meaning of being a Christian,” Jenny says.” It was not just believing but more of a relationship. It was about the same time Adam committed his life to Christ; and it was a time we grew together in our faith which was awesome. It has been cool how Adam has grown into the spiritual leader of our family, especially for our two little girls, Baylie Grace (4) and Morgan (2).”
“In 2002, I made that leap of faith to accept Christ as my Savior”
Before getting married, Wainwright began attending Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) meetings. “In 2002, I made that leap of faith to accept Christ as my Savior [after] my good friend, Blaine Boyer, and my agent, Steve Hammond, encouraged me to go to PAO and to get some questions answered. It all happened so fast. I had several friends who were believers who said to get involved and search out what you believe. I took that as a sign and that I should figure out one way or another whether I am destined to believe or not believe. In doing that process, I really came to know the Lord.”
Boyer, a relief pitcher now with the New York Mets, says about Wainwright: “Adam is an extremely close friend who is fun to be around. He loves people and loves to interact with people. He has a big heart for sharing the gospel, for extending the faith, teaching about Jesus, and in trying to defend the truth in all things. He is constantly seeking God in any kind of decision he is making or seeking the Lord for answers.”
“Jenny was a strong believer, but she never made it uncomfortable for me”
Wainwright says he finds strength in his wife, Jenny. “Jenny was a strong believer, but she never made it uncomfortable for me. She encouraged me without coming down on me when I wasn’t doing things she wanted me to do. She is the perfect example of being Christ-like to me so I can see another instance of someone I wanted to be like.”
Hammond, Wainwright’s sports agent and friend, says, “Jenny and Adam understand the importance their marriage and family are [in order] to be a [good] witness for the Lord. You cannot spend much time with them without recognizing that the Lord is an important part of their life. They have been very involved in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). They have been contributors and encouragers and they try to help any way they can.”
In 2004, Wainwright was traded from the Braves organization to the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent most of 2005 at Triple A Memphis as a starter before being brought up to the Cardinals. His major league debut was September 11 against the New York Mets. The following year (2006) Wainwright was brought right to the major leagues.
“Put me in the big show and I’ll carry the water bucket”
His mom says, “During spring training, the Cardinals told him they did not know what to do. They said they had no place in the rotation but he need not go back to Memphis. They asked him how he felt about being in the bullpen. He said, ‘Put me in the big show and I’ll carry the water bucket.’ That is Adam’s attitude in life. He will do whatever they ask of him.”
As it turned out, Adam closed out game seven in the 2006 N.L. Championship series against the New York Mets before a packed house. Then he went on to close out the 2006 World Series for the world champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Teammate Albert Pujols comments, “I think Adam’s main priority is his relationship with Jesus Christ and his family. We all know as a believer that baseball is something not eternal but the relationship with Christ will be. That is what Adam stays focused on.”
Wainwright’s teammates speak highly of him
Teammate Matt Holliday further comments, “Adam is a strong brother in Christ. He is a leader in the clubhouse when it comes to putting together Bible studies and discussion groups. As a person, as a husband, as a father, he is one of the greatest men I have been around in baseball. He is one of my really good friends.”
Wainwright says, “Christ has changed my life dramatically in that I try to see everything with a pair of godly glasses or lenses. I know Christ has made me a better husband and parent. I know God is watching me all the time, so I know I have that accountability all the time. He is in the room with me no matter what I am doing.”
Wainwright says he has another type of accountability that helps him stay the course, “We have a great core group here with the Cardinals, guys who are consistent in their faith.” Wainwright explains the importance of being there for your teammates, “There are guys in our clubhouse that will always be there for us as far as accountability goes. When you are gone a lot and you are alone in the hotel room, that is when you get weird. That is why it is important to have that relationship with your teammates to help keep each other in check. You have to have personal time, but you also have to have fellowship. That is the key word here—fellowship.”
“My life means nothing to me unless I carry out the work given to me by God”
One of Wainwright’s favorite passages in the Bible is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not rely on your own understanding.” But the one that has recently touched him is Acts 20:24 which says: “My life means nothing to me unless I carry out the work given to me by God, the work of telling others the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s mighty kindness and love.”
By Mark Darnall and Bruce Darnall
Photo credit: Scott Rovak