Wainwright Returns: The Only Possible Outcome

Many of you have read about Adam Wainwright’s return to the mound yesterday, and some of you may have already seen the highlights of him throwing a two-seamer on the outside corner to strike out Francisco Cervelli. It was a great pitch; a classic Wainwright sinker that popped the outside corner and left the batter swinging at nothing but air. What few know and almost no one has seen is all of the mental, physical, and spiritual work that went into getting back on the mound—a mere five months after surgery repaired his ruptured achilles—and executing that pitch.

When I saw it, I was reminded of a story he told my colleagues and me over dinner in Washington DC just five days before the game against the Milwaukee Brewers where the injury occurred. It was a story about mental toughness, and believing in yourself and your “stuff” at a level that allows one to transcend the ordinary.

When Adam was a young pitcher for the Cardinals he looked up to Chris Carpenter. Carpenter was “The Dude” in St. Louis. He’d won the NL Cy Young Award in 2005, Adam’s rookie season, and was the anchor of a staff that won the 2006 World Series.

Adam asked him for some advice as the two of them sat in the dugout one day. The conversation went something like this:

Wainwright: “Chris, my fastball keeps coming back over the plate to lefties. I noticed that yours doesn’t. Can you show me how you do that?”

Carpenter: “It can’t.”

Wainwright: “What do you mean, it can’t? Should I separate my fingers more? Is it in your wrist?”

Carpenter: “It can’t.”

Wainwright: “Quit messing with me, man. You must be doing something.”

Carpenter: “It can’t.

There was a pregnant pause as Adam’s mental gears turned.

Wainwright: “Ohhhhhh, IT CAN’T!”

In that moment Adam realized that if he was going to succeed inside against lefties he had to stop throwing to a zone. He had to “send the ball home” to the only place it could go. No more aiming, hoping, adjusting; only the realization that he had to be mentally superior to the games that play out in the human mind. He had to have the utmost faith in his abilities and let the ball go, knowing that he would succeed.

So, as we saw that pitch yesterday, we unknowingly saw a man execute on a vision that God had given him to be back on the mound before the end of the same season in which he was injured. Five months ago, he let go of all possible excuses and refused to let any noise get in his head. He worked hard, he prayed hard, he was loyal to the vision, and there he was, back on the mound putting that fastball the only place it could go, because it couldn’t go anywhere else, and he couldn’t be anywhere else.
—Raymond St. Martin

“For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever and His faithfulness to all generations” Psalm 100:5 ESV