Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis ace who will start Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers on Monday night, will forever have Dec. 13, 2003, etched in his mind, but not just because it was the day he was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Cardinals.
“The day I was traded, I was in Gainesville, Ga., sitting on the fireplace asking my future father-in-law for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and the phone started ringing,” Wainwright said after the Cardinals, who have a 2-0 edge in the best-of-seven series, worked out in Dodger Stadium on Sunday.
“My phone was vibrating and going crazy, so I turned it off. Then the house phone started ringing, and my future father-in-law, Jim Curry, got up and answered it. I’m thinking, we’re having a pretty important talk. Why would he get up and answer the phone?”
On the line was Wainwright’s mother, who called to inform Adam, a 2000 first-round pick of the Braves and a native of Brunswick, Ga., that he had been dealt with reliever Ray King and starter Jason Marquis to St. Louis for outfielder J.D. Drew and catcher Eli Marrero.
Wainwright was in double A at the time, but the right-hander’s progress seemed blocked in a pitching-rich organization that had Greg Maddux, Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton at the major-league level and several prospects ahead of him.
“My mom was crying, the whole city where I live was crying, but it turned out to be one of the greatest moments of my life,” Wainwright said. “[Curry] acknowledged that I could marry his daughter, which was great, but getting traded to St. Louis also rejuvenated my career and gave me a fresh start.
“I’ve had a chance to play in two World Series and win two rings, and countless playoff games. I mean, it’s just really exciting to be a member of the St. Louis community, as well as being a Cardinal. It’s a huge honor for me. I’m so blessed and glad to be where I’m at.”
Wainwright, who went 19-9 with a 2.94 earned-run average this season, is coming off a superb division series performance in which he won Games 1 and 5 against Pittsburgh, giving up two earned runs and 11 hits in 16 innings, striking out 15 and walking one.
He served as the Cardinals’ closer during their 2006 World Series run but missed the 2011 season — and another St. Louis championship — while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Wainwright did start Game 2 of the 2009 division series in Los Angeles, giving up one run and three hits in eight innings of a game the Dodgers won with two runs in the bottom of the ninth, and he’s looking forward to the atmosphere in Dodger Stadium on Monday night.
“Thinking back to 2009, I know it’s going to be rocking tomorrow,” Wainwright said. “I don’t know how many people are here, but it’s a lot of fans, bigger than most stadiums, I think, and very loud. I love that, though. I mean, the louder, the better. That plays right into my hands.”