Born: August 30, 1981

In spring training of 2003, just a few months after being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, a prospect right-hander walked in to an empty clubhouse.

Adam Wainwright had his glove in hand but not much other baseball gear. Plus, he was wondering where his career was headed, as any young player would think.

“And the very first person I see is Lou Brock,” Wainwright said of the former Cardinals outfielder and baseball Hall of Famer. “He then asked for my autograph, and I said, ‘Mr. Brock,’ I think you have that backwards. He said, ‘No, no. I think you’re going to be a great one.’”

Brock was spot on. Wainwright reached the big leagues two years later and pitched 18 successful seasons for the Cardinals. That’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Wainwright with the Class of 2023.

Overall, he finished with 200 career wins, becoming only the 38th pitcher in National League history with that number of victories. Only two others in Cardinals history have accomplished the feat.

Twelve times Wainwright earned double digits in wins, including 20-win seasons in 2010 and 2014. He led the National League with 19 wins, starts (34) and innings pitched (233, 241.2) in both 2009 and 2013, and was a 17-game winner in 2021.

Wainwright has finished in the top seven of Cy Young Award voting five times, won two Gold Gloves and was selected to three All-Star Games. He also has finished among the top 20 in MVP voting four times. Overall, he has pitched more than 2,668 innings, striking out 2,202 batters.

In fact, during his tenure, the Cardinals won the 2006 and 2011 World Series, and won the National League pennant in 2013. Wainwright appeared in 16 postseason series, including two World Series, five NLCS, seven NL Division Series and two NL Wild Cards.

“I cannot fully fathom how cool it’s been,” Wainwright said. “The only thing I wanted to be in life was to be a big-league ballplayer. That’s what I told my teachers. There was no back-up plan for me, but I got to live that for 20 seasons.”

Looking back, the winter ahead of the 2006 season was a turning point in his career.

Six years earlier, he had been drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Braves, his boyhood team. However, with the Braves needing outfield help in 2003, they shipped the right-hander to the Cardinals that December.

He then made his big-league debut late in the 2005 season, at which point he came to realize what it took to be a constant in the big leagues.

“I realized I needed to make a commitment to get the job done,” Wainwright said. “(In the minor leagues), I was only saying I was going to get the job done. And in the big leagues it took a commitment to get the job done.”

Wainwright rejoined St. Louis late in the 2006 season and, having been a starting pitcher in Triple-A, took over the Cardinals’ closer’s role after Jason Isringhausen (MSHOF 2017) suffered an injury.

Everybody remembers what happened next. Wainwright closed out the NL Division Series and NLCS, as well as the World Series.

In the NLCS, he struck out the New York Mets’ Carlos Beltran to end Game 7, silencing the crowd at New York’s Shea Stadium.

“Being able to get to that moment was about the changes I had to make,” Wainwright said. “It was just a testament to the work I put in.”

Closing out that series and then the World Series against the Detroit Tigers rank among his favorite moments. Others include his NLDS performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, breaking the big-league record of starts with catcher Yadier Molina in 2022, and then winning his 199th and 200th games in 2023.

For Wainwright, credit goes to so many for making his career a success, including teammates, coaches and trainers.

He will never forget the veterans taking him under his wing, Chris Carpenter (MSHOF 2015) for teaching how to pitch at the next level, Jim Edmonds (MSHOF 2012) talking about how not to tip pitches and Albert Pujols explaining hitters’ perspectives.

Family also has long been important, including his brother, Trey, who taught him the game and would cut out newspaper clippings from the Atlanta Journal Constitution about their favorite Braves.

“I was so glad I go to do this,” Wainwright said. “I think the best thing is that I was that I got to play for the St. Louis Cardinals that long.”