Adam Wainwright’s line at Hammons Field: 3 innings pitched, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 strikeouts, 59 pitches and 5,581 memories made.
Wainwright said his sore groin felt fine and with the Cardinals off to a rocky start, he’s anxious to get back to St. Louis.
“I only have 25 or 26 more starts when I get back in and I need to make the most of them. I don’t want to waste any more time.”
But for locals in The Queen City of the Ozarks, the first stop on Wainwright’s 2023 farewell tour was anything but wasted time.
Waino’s appearance in Double-A against the Midland RockHounds (Oakland) was pushed from Tuesday night to Wednesday afternoon – field trip day at the ballpark for Springfield area schools – and the stands were packed with kids of all ages.
Fans arrived early and hung over the railing above Springfield’s bullpen clutching cell phones. 2021 first-round pick Michael McGreevy was out there too, snacking on a Dole fruit cup that was not part of the steak-and-lobster spread delivered to the Cards’ clubhouse on Wainwright’s dime.
The Baby Shark theme song hummed in the background and as the veteran loosened up, the atmosphere felt more like recess than a rehab start.
“Those kids don’t know who I am,” Wainwright joked. “They don’t care about me. I think they were just glad to be out of school.”
Uncle Charlie delivered the first pitch at 12:05 p.m., or right about the time Cyndi Biellier’s 2nd grade class at Disney Elementary school would normally start math.
From their seats on the third-base side of home plate, the kids counted two quick outs before consecutive singles put No. 50 in a jam. Chase Calabuig grounded sharply to Springfield first baseman Chandler Redmond, who led Waino to the bag to retire the side.
Wainwright tossed the ball over the protective netting into the waiting hands of Cards’ fan Kevin Perez – he skipped general education class at Missouri State University to see the three-time All-Star pitch.
“I’ll hang it up, put it in a little glass box right next to my bed,” Perez said of his reward for playing hookie.
RockHounds’ second baseman Jeremy Eierman – Oakland’s second-round pick in 2018 from Missouri State – reached on a fielder’s choice in the second inning. Wainwright struck out the next batter but surrendered a two-run homer to Michael Guldberg for the game’s first runs.
Springfield took a 3-2 lead in the bottom frame, thanks to a two-run double to the gap in left-center by Pedro Pages.
Waino induced a flyout to start the third inning, then froze the next batter with a looping curveball. Wainwright stuck out J.J. Schwartz swinging on a 2-2 pitch, and he walked to the dugout to a standing ovation.
Redmond smacked a two-run homer in the fifth inning, his fourth of the 2023 campaign. Redmond shed more than 20 pounds in the offseason and before the game, he said he’d abstain from Wainwright’s lavish post-game feast.
Most of the crowd had departed on school buses by the time Midland (5-6) rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to top Springfield (4-7) by an 8-7 score.
Wainwright won’t miss the hitter-friendly confines, but he shared a warm sentiment for Springfield.
“It’s been a treat to be here, unless the wind is blowing out,” he said. “I love being in Springfield, it’s a wonderful place…the crowd has always treated us like royalty here and it makes us feel very loved.”