St. Louis Cardinals star Adam Wainwright received the coveted Hutch Award on Wednesday for his humanitarian efforts, and his acceptance speech a trip to the Hutch School showed why.
Adam Wainwright says he lives by a simple motto: “To whom much is given, much is required.”
The St. Louis Cardinals’ ace readily admits that he has been “blessed beyond measure,” and added it would be “sinful” not to use that bounty for the cause of good.
The result of his good works is why Wainwright was at Safeco Field on Wednesday, accepting the 51st annual Hutch Award, slightly wide-eyed by the company he was keeping.
That included Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, the keynote speaker, and Jason Carter, grandson of honorary award winner Jimmy Carter. Former Hutch Award winners John Olerud, Jamie Moyer, Andre Thornton and Sean Casey were in the crowd. And, to Wainwright’s unabashed excitement, so was Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder.
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“I really couldn’t be happier right now,’’ Wainwright said. “I’m in a good spot.”
Earlier in the day, Wainwright also found himself in a good spot — sitting with Fisk in front of an attentive group of youngsters from the Hutch School. It’s the only full-time school in the country for the children and siblings of cancer victims, as well as kids stricken themselves.
They chuckled as Fisk, who caught more games than any player in baseball history except Ivan Rodriguez, described his career: “I used to play baseball. I used to squat a lot.”
And they listened in rapt attention while Wainwright described his non-profit venture called “Big League Impact,” which raises money for clean water, medical care and shelter around the world through, of all things, fantasy football.
It’s a simple but brilliant concept: Fans pay to participate in fantasy leagues with ballplayers like Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw and others. In three years, they’ve raised over $1 million, and Wainwright hopes to eventually involve players from all 30 Major League Baseball teams. He conceived the idea while shagging balls during batting practice.
“I ran a charity golf tournament for eight years, but everyone runs a charity golf tournament,’’ he said. “I got tired of it. I wanted to do something different.”
Wainwright and his wife, Jenny (who stayed home in Georgia to attend to their four children, including a 3-week-old daughter) also operate the Adam and Jenny Wainwright 25:35 Foundation, named after a Bible verse from Matthew.
Among Wainwright’s projects are providing mosquito nets to stop the spread of malaria in Africa, and funding an orphanage in St. Louis that shelters women that were involved in sex trafficking.
The Hutch Award goes to the ballplayer who best exemplifies the “honor, courage and dedication” of Seattle baseball legend Fred Hutchinson. Dr. Bill Hutchinson founded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center after his brother died of cancer at the age of 45 in 1964.
Wainwright said he doesn’t pay much attention to postseason awards (“If it’s not on the Disney Channel, I don’t know about it”) but after a little research, he realized how special the Hutch Award is. A close friend and former winner, Dave Dravecky, reinforced that in a congratulatory phone call.
“This means the world to me,’’ Wainwright said during his acceptance speech. “It will be one of the prized possessions in my whole life … It means so much, more than any achievement on the field ever could.”
Assessing the colorful Dale Chihuly creation (entitled “Imperial Blue Piccolo Venetian with Golden Coils) that goes to the winner, Wainwright cracked, “I don’t know whether to eat it or display it.”
Fisk — himself a survivor of prostate cancer in 2005 and a melanoma in 2014 — quoted Winnie the Pooh in his freewheeling speech: “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
Fisk said that his cancer treatment forced him to miss the World Series title run by the Chicago White Sox, his team for 13 of 24 seasons.
“The great thing is I’m not missing the rest of my life,’’ he said.
Awards such as The Hutch aren’t the reason he does his charitable endeavors, Wainwright said, but he admitted, “It’s a nice perk.”
The devout Wainwright, in the midst of a five-year, $97.5 million contract, cited the Bible verse that says it will be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven.
“I know that I’m a rich man,’’ he said. “I’m trying to make sure that I am that camel that goes through the eye of the needle rather than being the rich man that everyone scoffs at as not charitable.”
He concluded his speech by urging others to exemplify the Hutch ideals.
“The life we lead, we only get one shot at it here on earth, and it means something,’’ he said. “If you can lay your head down at night and know you’re nailing it and you’re making a difference to impact the world for the better, bravo.
“If not, get to doing it.”