Waino's giving nature worthy of our gratitude

November 20th, 2023

This story was excerpted from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

In this season of giving thanks, 's off-field legacy as a philanthropist and an all-around good citizen in the St. Louis community is certainly deserving of thanks.

As in, a standing ovation kind of thanks for a pitcher who will go down as one of the best in the rich history of the Cardinals, and also one who always worked to make the lives of others better even when he wasn’t at Busch Stadium.

Wainwright ended his Cardinals career back in October with exactly 200 wins and dozens of the most air-bending, gravity-defying curveballs in MLB history. But the work he did away from the field, while touching so many lives and helping those in need, might be even more impactful and meaningful in the long run.

As the founder and president of the “Big League Impact” charity, Wainwright has headed a nonprofit organization that has donated $9 million for approximately 150 organizations worldwide since 2013. While spearheading the effort with his folksy charm, welcoming smile, Georgia twang and big heart, Wainwright recruited 139 other professional athletes into the organization and showed them ways to make tangible differences in the communities that they live and play in.

Just as he did when he gutted his way through back and shoulder pain while throwing seven shutout innings to beat the rival Brewers for his 200th victory on Sept. 18, Wainwright has always tried to lead and influence others with his actions. Since 2020, Wainwright has raised and donated more than $1 million through various events with his #ALLWIN campaigns to support water accessibility, food insecurity, children, families in crisis and racial justice.

“When you get here, you see the way leaders like Adam work to make a difference in the community and help others, and you want to try and follow in their footsteps the best that you can,” said superstar first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals’ 2023 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.

To this day, Wainwright still considers the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award for his work in the community to be the crowning achievement in a career that saw him win the World Series title in 2006 (he was injured when St. Louis won in 2011), make three All-Star Games, win two Gold Gloves and capture a Silver Slugger award. The Clemente Award came after Wainwright spent much of his offseason helping to build a secondary school in Haiti, constructing clean-water drinking wells in Honduras, overseeing the building of medical clinics in Ethiopia, feeding children and assisting in the fight against sex trafficking in Africa and providing hot meals to those in need in St. Louis.

Earlier this season, during a random weekday morning in Cincinnati, there was Wainwright -- having assembled teammates Tommy Edman, Ryan Helsley, Nolan Arenado and others -- serving breakfast at a homeless shelter with little or no fanfare at all. Why were they there? “It’s just the right thing to do,” Wainwright said at the time.    

Asked earlier this year about the Roberto Clemente Award he won three years earlier for the work he’s done while helping others, Wainwright said, “Without a doubt, that one still means the most to me.”

Wainwright’s days of throwing those knee-buckling curveballs are over, but his legacy as a caring soul and a good Samaritan will live on for generations to come through Big League Impact and the lives that he touched throughout his playing career.