This year provides both for the same person, Adam Parrish Wainwright, the retiring ballplayer who, with hopes of similar pitch execution, will perform his original country songs Monday for 750 people.
“I’m so much more worried about singing than I’ve ever been about any baseball game my entire life,” said Wainwright, who’s playing a show benefiting his charity, Big League Impact, at Boondocks Pub in Springfield, Illinois.
Asked where the nerves rank from, say, pitching in the low minor leagues to facing to Carlos Beltran at Shea Stadium, Wainwright said, “I’m telling you, I wasn’t nervous for any of those. But I know I’ll be nervous (on stage), I just know. ...
“I’ll tell you this: I’m going to go into it expecting to be locked in like I’m pitching, because that’s how I get ready for things. So, we’ll see if that works.”
We’ll have to see if he becomes a singer like Adam Levine or a songwriter like Rufus Wainwright. But in regard to getting locked in, that preparation and dedication is what gave him such a long and strong career. And it’s that dire fire — an inner indefatigable wildfire — that has him back for his 19th year.
He wants to win (another) World Series. And he wants prove that his awful September wasn’t simply who he is now.
“I think, sometimes, failure is what drives you more than success,” said Wainwright, 41, who has 195 career wins. “And I failed and didn’t pitch like I should’ve and could’ve — and that just drove me crazy. But it’s got me sending videos and pictures of me working in front of the mirror to (new pitching coach) Dusty Blake at 10:30 at night. Because I just don’t want that to happen again. So I’m just making sure I stay on top and do everything I can to be good.”
There will be pomp. Any time a great Cardinal retires, there are ceremonies and honors and homages (and, of course, merchandise for sale). But last year, Wainwright saw the symmetry of Albert Pujols emptying the tank and playing otherworldly baseball, all while saying goodbye to baseball. Talk about a precedent. And setting a tone. That’s why “Waino” will have a sturdy season, I believe. He sees how a final run can be done. And for a guy who already pitches every game like it’s his last, imagine when he’s actually pitching his last games.
Which leads us to the 2023 Cardinals. This club hasn’t won a game in the National League Championship Series since 2014 and hasn’t won a World Series since 2011, when Wainwright was injured (he also won it all, of course, in 2006). As Wainwright said Sunday at Winter Warm-up: “It’s been a few too many years. We need to do that again.”
And he can sure affect that. The Cards are counting on him. Forget the back of his baseball card or his Wikipedia page — they need this guy to thrive within in the silo that is 2023. The Cardinals didn’t splurge on any new high-priced, free-agent pitcher. They doubled down on their dudes.
As for the Wainwright confidence, consider that two years ago, he had a 3.05 ERA and finished seventh in the Cy Young voting. And last year, he entered September with a 3.09 ERA. Alas, he exited last year with a 3.71 ERA.
“Expectations are high, right?” said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals president of baseball operations, who gave Wainwright a contract extension around $17.5 million. “You don’t sign someone if you don’t have expectations for someone that’s really going to compete and contribute. I think any time you ever want to bet against Adam Wainwright, you’re probably making a bad bet. He’s proved us all wrong for years. He’s someone that works extremely hard — his preparation is real. He’s someone that understands exactly what it takes to perform at a high level.”
Similar to utilizing his pitching coach, Wainwright has worked diligently with two mentors in music — Greg Barnhill and Gary Baker, the latter who wrote the famed song “I Swear,” among others. Both fellows will be on stage Tuesday, harmonizing with the new country crooner.
And Wainwright will be back on a local stage on March 30. Though that day, he’ll play for around 47,750 people.
“If I thought we had no chance to win at all, then I wouldn’t have come back,” Wainwright said. “I’m fine with the way things have gone (in my career), I wouldn’t change a thing that I’ve done. I can’t help that injuries happened. Can’t help blowing an Achilles’ out in my prime. Can’t help blowing out my elbow in my prime. ...
“I wouldn’t change any of those years, any of the stuff that happened — I learned different lessons from all of it. I think I could have done some things better, but that’s what happened. That was the history that happened. So I don’t I don’t have regrets about that. And so, if I didn’t think we could win this year, I would’ve walked off and done the hat-tip. But I feel like I have more to give — and I feel like our team has a chance to win. And I want to be part of that.”
Photos: Wainwright, Arenado, Goldschmidt are big draws on day 2 of Cardinals Winter-Warm Up