Wainwright Performs, Pays What He Thinks He Owes with Karaoke Sing-off
By Jeff Jones
Twitter – @jmjones
MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO. – Before a single sung note escaped from Adam Wainwright’s lips on Friday night at Dave and Buster’s, he delivered a simple message to the crowd gathered for his third annual Waino’s World karaoke sing-off: “I owe y’all.”
It’s a somewhat curious that a ballplayer who’s provided 148 regular season wins, four more in the playoffs, and contributed to two World Series championships would feel a debt toward a city and a franchise, but Wainwright is committed to that ethic.
“I always feel like with my platform and what I’ve been given, I always feel like I owe the world something, not just St. Louis,” Wainwright told Scoops. “To be faithful to the Lord that I feel like provided me all that, I feel like I’ve gotta do something with that.”
Big League Impact, the charitable organization that Wainwright helped to establish, has grown into a multi-layered entity that works with countless public interest organizations in major league cities and around the world. On Friday, the primary beneficiary of the karaoke sing-off event was Crisis Aid, a local charity working both to combat hunger and to assist victims of sex trafficking in the St. Louis area.
Wainwright and his wife Jenny, parents to four girls, have been committed to the cause of combatting sex trafficking not only in St. Louis, but also in efforts throughout Africa and the Dominican Republic. The money raised from Friday’s event will support the efforts of Crisis Aid to maintain a shelter for girls and women who have been exploited and allow them to recover in a safe environment that doesn’t remove them from their familiar communities.
Without taking into account the funds raised through ticket sales or from silent auction items, Wainwright’s direct appeals to the crowd generated enough funds to completely rehabilitate seven rooms for housing victims in addition to enough money to feed 100 families through Crisis Aid’s programs for up to six weeks.
Wainwright’s good works off the field will hopefully be paired with good works on the field. He told the assembled crowd that his arm felt stronger than it had in four years and acknowledged – not for the first time – that he “did not return” what the city of St. Louis and the Cardinals organization gave to him in 2018. He enters the 2019 season with the power of his reputation and incumbency as he fights for a spot in the team’s rotation, and he seemed eager for the chance to perform.
He was certainly a performer on Friday, taking to the stage with his two eldest daughters Baylie and Morgan to sing “Long Black Train” by country star Josh Turner, who apparently suggested the song to Wainwright directly via Twitter. He returned to the stage with former Cardinals pitcher and current Cardinals executive Ryan Franklin and his two fellow karaoke judges to belt out *NSync’s “Bye Bye Bye” before ending his night in a group that laid down Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
After sharing the stage with all manner of people, it came as little surprise that Wainwright had an immediate answer when queried as to which teammate would be the best karaoke partner. Luke Gregerson, Wainwright said, has the necessary skills and range to keep up and perhaps even elevate a performance.
“I’ve been a paid performer for the last 14 years,” Wainwright said. “By nature, that’s kind of what I’m good for.”
“At a certain level I realize that I don’t really get embarrassed a whole lot, so making a fool out of myself for a good cause is a good cause.”
The tragedy of food insecurity and the horrors of sex trafficking hardly make for light evening fare, so it’s a credit to Wainwright that he was able to seamlessly transition from lobbying for those causes to performing as a bona fide song and dance man.
That inclination toward service drives that performance and has given him the necessary perspective to be a force for good in the lives of countless people. He has erased bashfulness and, in its place, found part of his purpose.
“All I’m trying to do is make people smile and make people happy,” Wainwright said.
“At the end of the day and people get home from work or they get home from school and they’ve had a long day, if they can get some enjoyment brought to them by me, then I’ve done my job.”