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Adam Wainwright is one of the most well-known players in major league baseball. During his impressive career, the 33 year old starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals has won more than 100 games, three All-Star selections, two Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, and finished in the top three in the CY Young Award balloting four times.
But despite all of his accomplishments, Wainwright, who has three young daughters with his wife, Jenny, says his purpose in playing ball is not to achieve great success–but to glorify Jesus Christ.
“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,” he explained.
However, this was not always his mindset: although he grew up in a Christian home, Wainwright did not become a Christian until adulthood.
“I am a true testament that just because you grew up in church does not mean you are a Christian or believer,” he said. “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.”
Ten days after graduating from high school in 2000, Wainwright joined the minor leagues. During this time, he was persuaded by friends to attend a Professional Athletes Outreach event. Being among Christians and hearing the gospel in an athletic setting, Wainwright came to know the Lord, and instantly, his focus was shifted from baseball to Christ.
“I went there and was just blown away by the way everyone loved each other and by the crazy passion in the room,” Wainwright recalled in a 2010 interview. “I came away a completely changed person. I realized then that I had to make a life change. The moment I finally figured out that I didn’t have to be good enough for God was when I realized He was good enough for me.”
In 2004, Wainwright was traded from the Braves organization to the St. Louis Cardinals. His major league debut was September 11, 2005, against the New York Mets.Throughout the season, he helped propel his team all the way to the 2006 World Series.
“When I finally put my faith in God, I started pitching with His strength and confidence instead of mine, and it really made my baseball career take off,” Wainwright said. “My pitching coach and manager saw a difference in me from the start of that year. When I made that commitment to treat every day like it was my last, I did it in every practice session, in every game and with every pitch. When I closed out the World Series, it was no big deal because I had the same mindset all year long.”
By 2010, Wainwright had emerged as one of the Cardinal’s most reliable starters, having 19 and 20 win seasons. Suddenly, just two weeks into training in 2011, the all-star pitcher felt a pain in his pitching arm. Doctors told him he had torn ligaments in his elbow, which would force him to undergo surgery–putting him out for the remainder of the season.
Although devastated, Wainwright found comfort in the words of his wife. She told him, “To me, you’re not a baseball player. You’re my husband, my spiritual leader, my kid’s father. You’re much more to me than this game or baseball.”
“I took tremendous pleasure in that,” the he recalled, “Just knowing that my identity with her, myself and my teammates was not so much as a player, it was as a godly man. A Christ-following man in the house and out of the house.”
Although he recovered from his injury, Wainwright’s pitching ability was never the same. However, the athlete viewed this as a blessing in disguise, and taught himself new, creative ways to pitch.
“At some level, you have to point to my faith…I’m freed up into a way of playing baseball that has allowed me to go out there and play fearlessly,” he said. “God has granted me the strength, mentally, to believe in my ability. The freedom out there, to completely be me, and just have fun mixing and matching pitches. I think that freedom only comes from a relationship with Christ.”
Over the next several years, Wainwright’s new techniques and determination earned him the highest winning percentage of any current National League pitcher since 2008. In 2014, the athlete achieved career-best number in wins, and made his third All-Star Game, which he started for the National League.
Although his career has experienced various ups and downs, Wainwright, who is now active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, says one thing has stayed the same: God’s faithfulness.
“Christ has changed my life dramatically in that I (now) try to see everything with a pair of godly glasses or lenses,” Wainwright says. “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.”
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