Waino hits anthem goal: 'I didn't mess the words up'

Cardinals pitcher's rousing rendition thrills sellout crowd, highlights Opening Day festivities

March 31st, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals cornerstone wasn’t able to pitch on Thursday in the final Opening Day of his 18-year MLB career, but he still managed to steal the show at Busch Stadium.

Wainwright, 41, now in his final MLB season after announcing plans to retire following the 2023 campaign, sang the national anthem prior to the Cardinals' season-opening 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays. Wainwright, an aspiring country music singer when his baseball career concludes, held a concert in Springfield, Ill., back in January for approximately 500 fans.

Wainwright’s rendition of the anthem received a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd. As he hit the final note of the song, Wainwright extended both arms and flashed a wide smile.

“My goals were to honor the country with a decent rendition, not mess the words up and sing it at a decent tempo, which I didn’t do. But the other two I did,” said Wainwright, who pitched for his country in March when he won two games for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

“A couple of teammates said, ‘Hey, you sounded great, but you were a little slow,’” Wainwright added. “When you hear 162 [anthems], you want to hear a great one. You want it to have, not necessarily a brisk pace, but it is meant to be sung quicker than some. It’s probably meant to be sung quicker than I sung it, but I had a great time and I didn’t mess the words up.”

Wainwright was scheduled to be the starting pitcher for a seventh Opening Day, but he was scratched because of a groin strain he suffered while with Team USA in the WBC. Wainwright, who is on the 15-day injured list, is expected to miss “several weeks” with the injury, according to manager Oliver Marmol.

The 6-foot-7 right-hander enters this season with 195 career wins -- 15 shy of tying for second place in franchise history. Last season, he teamed with catcher Yadier Molina to set the all-time NL/AL record for starts (328) and team wins (213) by a pitcher/catcher battery.

Wainwright said the idea of him singing the anthem was brought to him by Cardinals manager of player communications Melody Yount. Wainwright said he initially turned down the offer, but had a quick change of heart and he decided to sing when he was scratched from the start because of his groin injury.

Wainwright said singing the anthem was nothing like pitching in an MLB game. It was much more nerve wracking, he stressed.

“Way more nervous,” he said. “Probably seven times more nervous today than any start I’ve ever had in my life.”