FASTBALLS JET VIA baseball vibes of the era, rattling through catchers’ gloves at 100 mph or faster, and in the midst of that sound of speed is Adam Wainwright’s curl ball.
Resin balloon. Peacefully circling downhill, moving slower than an I-70 commuter train, but still great in its own way.
“It looks like someone is standing on the ladder and throwing it at the plate,” said Joey Votto, the Reds’ first baseman to hit Wainwright in 73 plate games, the most against any pitcher. “It’s very hard to know where he’s going to land, the ball or the kick.”
Wainwright’s career spans 18 major league seasons, an impressive number of innings, strikeouts, wins and Cy Young votes. But when he returns to throw the ceremonial first pitch in St. Louis, or maybe enter Cooperstown, his time and effort will be encapsulated in a single pitch video, done the way his older brother taught him at 12: that twisted the ball he threw. into the strike zone against the Mets’ Carlos Beltran to end the National League championship streak in 2006.
“Over the years, the angle of my arm has changed a bit,” Wainwright said. “The way I move my hand back has changed a little. She has changed a little. But it was the only serve I could always rely on and I could know how it would come out. since I could drop it and it would go up to 75 miles an hour.”
The field was a constant in his baseball life, which set him apart from other draft-eligible players when the Braves selected him in the first round of the 2000 draft, fueling the interest of the Cardinals before they asked for him in the J.D. Drew trade for 2003. still wearing it as he approaches his 41st birthday next month.
His average fastball speed has dropped from 91.1 mph in 2010, the season before he had Tommy John surgery, to his current 88.6 mph. But for Wainwright, there’s always a curve. “If I didn’t have my crooked ball,” he said, “I wouldn’t get out of the A-ball.”