ST. LOUIS — Playing for as long as he has in the major leagues, there aren’t a lot of firsts left for Adam Wainwright to accomplish in his career.
He will get one next spring, however, when he joins the United States team that will be playing in the World Baseball Classic.
It will be the first time that Wainwright will wear a uniform representing the U.S.
“I’ve never been invited,” Wainwright said Wednesday. “In my prime I never got asked … I’m excited about it. I want to represent our country.”
Wainwright said he received a phone call from Mark DeRosa, who will manage the U.S. squad, about a month ago asking if he would be interested in playing and he did not hesitate to say yes.
The tournament will be played during spring training, and Wainwright said he will work to be ready to pitch when he arrives at the Cardinals camp in Florida, where he will have a couple of weeks to train before joining the U.S. team workouts..
“One of the reasons I am really looking forward to it is because I see how those guys are competing and I see how intense it is and I need that,” Wainwright said. “I want to go into the season this year already locked in.
“Normally in spring training the outcome has no bearing or effect on anything. These games matter. I want that. I want to go into the season after winning the WBC for our country. I want to go into the season this year locked in and prepared to pitch at a level mentally that I haven’t gotten to in a while. I think this will help me get there.”
Wainwright has said the 2023 season will be the final year of his career.
Wainwright said he has wanted to play on the U.S. Olympic team “my whole life.”
“I went to the 1996 Olympics when they were in Atlanta,” he said. “I got a bunch of autographs. I’ve wanted to be a part of that team since then. The picture on my Twitter account has my face in red, white and blue paint. I’m all about it.
“I just think it’s one of the greatest honors you can have.”
Wainwright was invited to the trials for the U.S. Olympic team for a qualifying tournament after the 2003 minor-league season but he was not selected for the final roster.
Being involved in the World Baseball Classic isn’t quite at the level of the Olympics, but Wainwright thinks the experience will be close. He will be joining teammates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado on the U.S. team.
If the schedule lines up that way, he could even find himself pitching in a game against the Puerto Rico team that will be managed by Yadier Molina.
“That’s going to be interesting,” Wainwright said. “Yadi’s going to be over there going, ‘it’s a slider, it’s a four-sinker.’ He knows the way I look out there. That will be fun.”
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