ST. LOUIS – Weeks after hanging up the spikes, Adam Wainwright wanted to reassure St. Louis that the city and the Cardinals organization will always hold a special place in his heart.
Earlier this week, Wainwright wrote a heartfelt letter through the MLB Players’ Tribune titled “Dear St. Louis,” honoring his time in St. Louis and reflecting on his big-league baseball journey.
One excerpt from his letter reads:
“If there’s one thing I had to point to and say, I’m lucky I got to play in St. Louis … because I’m not sure this would’ve happened everywhere else, it’s the way I was treated by my vets.
In St. Louis, there’s a great culture of veteran players passing down the systems and traditions they’ve been taught along the way. It’s about always trying to make the guy next to you better — even when they’re trying to take your job!
And I benefited from that culture as much as anyone.”Adam Wainwright, Players’ Tribune
Wainwright, born and raised in Georgia, was originally drafted by his home-state Atlanta Braves and spent several years in their minor league system chasing the big-league dream. He joined the Cardinals nearly two decades ago in a trade that sent outfielder J.D. Drew to Atlanta.
A man of many stories, Wainwright says he learned about the trade during a very significant moment of his life. In December 2003, Wainwright visited his then-girlfriend Jenny’s father one-on-one in hopes of getting his blessing to propose to and marry his daughter.
“I’m sitting with her dad in their living room, in my best clothes, trying to find the right words: ‘Sir, as you know, I love your daughter, and -‘ When all of a sudden, I hear this sound. BZZZ. BZZZ BZZZ. It’s my cell phone vibrating. This is 2003, remember, so I’ve just got one of those old Nokias with a keypad and probably some “20 minutes per day” plan. And the darn thing is blowing up my pocket. “Like I was saying, sir, Jenny and I’ve dated for five years, and—”
“BZZZ. BZZZ BZZZ. BZZZ. BZZZ BZZZ. I’m like, Are you kidding me right now?? It just keeps going. So I apologize, take my phone out, turn it off. ‘And what I wanted to ask you, sir, is, it’d be great if I could get your blessing, to—’ Alright now their home phone starts ringing. Mr. Curry gets up and answers it, then looks over at me, like, “Adam. It’s for you.” I’m thinking, Did someone die??!?
“I pick up. It’s a three-way call, and on the other ends are my mom and Dayton Moore (from the Braves). I can tell instantly – Mom has been crying her eyes out. I’m like, ‘What’s wrong? Is everything OK?’ And (still sobbing) she goes, ‘NO. You’ve been TRADED.'”-Adam Wainwright, Players’ Tribune
Wainwright told Jenny’s father he was now a member of the Cardinals organization, but also wanted his support to marry his daughter. He said yes, and shortly after that, so did Jenny.
Wainwright earned his MLB promotion in September 2005 and carved out a prominent role in the Cardinals’ bullpen in 2006. As he embraced one of the toughest assignments of his career, closing out the final game of the 2006 NLCS, he remembered advice from injured Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen in conquering big situations: Step off the rubber … take a second … breathe.
Wainwright struck out postseason stalwart Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded and advanced the Cardinals to the 2006 World Series. He says it’s a moment “I’ll cherish forever.”
According to his letter, some of the biggest learning experiences and moments he learned he wanted to reach were in 2005 after missing the postseason roster, in 2012 when coming back from Tommy John surgery and in 2013 after negotiating a long-term deal with the Cardinals.
“Five years of course ended up being ten.
And when I think about those later seasons, and those later moments, there’s just something about them that made them special. It’s almost like they had this double meaning: They meant a lot because they meant a lot … but also because they were built on so many other moments. They were special because of everything I’d already experienced with y’all.Adam Wainwright, Players’ Tribune
Wainwright earned his 200th win in the final start of his MLB career on Sept. 18, 2023. He was with the Cardinals through two World Series championships, having played in just the one during his rookie season due to an injury in 2011.
Wainwright closed his letter with more praise for the St. Louis community:
“I remember my single favorite thing about being a Cardinal: How every time I stepped on the field, I was helping write a story. Not my story, but bigger than mine. Bigger than anyone’s.
It’s the story of a city that loves baseball.
It started before I got here and I’m pretty sure never ends.Adam Wainwright, Players’ Tribune