ST. LOUIS — Every year, Adam Wainwright walks into the media room and tries to defer to the past instead of the long term future, something he prefers to leave out ahead undiscovered. Be that as it may, the veteran Cardinals pitcher knows it's a foolhardy task with the local media needing a story to tell their readers.
"My experience tells me that no matter what I tell you not to ask me about, it's not going to happen. I'm living day to day, so if anyone asks me about the future, I really don't have an answer," Wainwright said.
While he doesn't know what to do with the barrage of questions at times, the 38-year-old does know what he can do with the articles written about him that are filled with doubt about his ability. For Wainwright, it's gas in the tank.
"I like something to prove. I respond well when people have their doubts. Sometimes, I intentionally take something personally that wasn't meant to be personal to drive me," Wainwright said. "I'll do the same thing this year and apologize later."
Professional athletes can go into a gym and train, or be like Harrison Bader and go to a facility in Los Angeles that gives the brain a workout-but according to Wainwright, that only gets you so far.
"I need something. So mentally, I can push myself so far, and then I need something like that (a column expressing doubt) to make me do the extra rep or focus harder on the mound," Wainwright noted.
When asked about which player is going to have a big year, Wainwright pointed to a fellow rotation spot holder.
"Miles Mikolas. He can pitch at 95 mph and he's 6'5" and 245 pounds of solid rock muscle. He's got four great pitches. Last season was atypical."
Before he could leave the room to sign autographs, Wainwright was asked about pitcher home runs and reminded that the crew didn't hit a single one last year. What's his prediction this year?
"I said I'm going to hit 5 last year. I'm hitting at least 3 this year. If Jack Flaherty stops trying to hit singles to right, he could hit one."
Ever the charismatic showman and cordial spokesperson, Wainwright has the media game down. Midway through the interview, he took a FaceTime call from his battery mate, Yadier Molina. A pitcher getting semi-rescued by his catcher in the nick of time.
The game on the mound, though, will be a lot harder, but one that Wainwright is finding his grip on once again.
He recaptured something in 2019 and wants to hold onto it for at least another year. If he does, the rotation is as strong as an ox, but if he doesn't, there's going to be questions.
Once the ace and now a guy trying to hold onto the innocence of baseball's humble grit, Wainwright is still the glue holding things together.