Wainwright is catching a dream
Right-hander combines passion for hunting with helping kids
JUPITER, Fla. -- If the Catch-A-Dream Foundation didn't already exist, Adam Wainwright likely would have created it. It's impossible to imagine a charitable organization that would be a better fit for the Cardinals' star right-hander. Wainwright loves hunting and fishing -- needs to have them in his life, as a matter of fact.
Moreover, he prefers that his charitable work have an impact on the lives of young people, and he wants to share his Christian faith and live a life guided by its principles.
Enter Catch-A-Dream. Based in Mississippi, the organization does work similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, except for two critical differences. Catch-A-Dream takes ill kids on hunting and fishing trips if that's their greatest wish. And on the trips, kids are exposed to Christian teachings. From the first time Wainwright heard about the foundation, he wanted in.
"I've been hunting since I was a kid," Wainwright said. "I used to bird hunt. I grew up with shotguns, shooting skeet competitions. My brother and I used to shoot in these Ducks Unlimited competitions when we were growing up. Skeet, dove hunting, quail hunting. I grew up shooting a BB gun in my back yard. ... So I've always been interested in the outdoors, not just shooting. I can go out there and go hiking with the best of them, and be blown away by seeing a bear or a deer without having any thoughts of shooting it whatsoever. If I can be outside, I'm pretty happy."
Wainwright had been involved for some time in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes near his home in southeastern Georgia, but he was looking to do charitable work in the St. Louis area. Terry and Mark Drury of Drury Outdoors, which produces the "Dream Season" hunting television series, were looking for a baseball player to participate in their show, and they are also big proponents of Catch-A-Dream.
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They hooked Wainwright to participate in "Dream Season," and during the course of the program, they told him about the foundation.
"Adam was one of our favorite Cardinal players, and we knew that he enjoyed hunting," said Terry Drury. "It just seemed like a really, really logical fit. Also, from what we could pick up on him, we knew he was a good Christian fellow and thought that he would maybe have a passion about these particular children and a passion about the sport. And we felt he would be a 100 percent perfect fit for what we are trying to do."
They were right.
Wainwright embraced the foundation wholeheartedly. He went on a Catch-A-Dream trip with a young man named Aaron Reynolds who is fighting cancer. He also helped raise $75,000 for the foundation, enough to fund approximately 20 trips. Wainwright was proud of the fundraising, but he was overwhelmed by the experience of hunting with young Aaron.
"His life's goal was to kill a big buck before he passed," Wainwright said.
"When I first met Aaron, he was down. He was like, 'I'm doing all right. I'm getting through it.' And he left there all smiles, all hugs. And he gave his life to Jesus, and his father did, on the trip. For me, I'm blown away. To be a part of something like that, there were people crying all around. I was in awe. The two cameramen are sitting to my left and they're bawling. And they've been a part of it for several years now. It's something that hit home this offseason."
Hunting in the offseason was nothing new for Wainwright. It's essential to his sanity. He was raised on spending time outside.
"The whole year, we're on the road, we're traveling, we're going to hotels," he said. "We're in big stadiums where there's 50,000 people. We're looking at TVs and computer screens, studying film, watching ESPN and all these things on TV. With all these things, we're going 90 miles an hour all year. And then after the season is over, on your time to unwind, there's no better way for me to unwind than to get in a hunting stand, up in a tree, where I can watch just nature. Even if you don't see anything all day, which happens sometimes as a hunter, you still get to go out there and just be quiet and be still."
Wainwright understands that to a non-hunter, that sounds strange. To many people, it's a contradiction: how can you love to watch nature, and respect the animal, and still want to shoot it? But it's not the kill that appeals. It's the environment, the quiet. And it's the sport.
"It's not just shooting the animal," he said, "and it's a good question. A white-tailed deer or an elk or whatever you're going to hunt is so keen. Those guys' senses, their eyesight, their sense of smell, you would not believe. ... I've gotten into bow hunting. The first couple of years I hunted deer, I was a gun hunter only. And if you've got the wind right or whatever, you can shoot a deer from a long way away and they never know what's coming. But with a bow, you've got to get those suckers in close.
"Now, holding a gun, I feel guilty almost. A bow hunt is so much sport. Everything has to be perfect. So then, if you're going to try to film it, too, you've got two times as much scent in the tree. You've got two times as big a figure in the tree, which almost always, they bust you. But then, if the wind changes ever so slightly, it doesn't take but just a hint of it, and those things will work around you and you'll never see them. The wind has to be right. You have to pick the right spot. They're really smart animals. They're fast."
On his Catch-A-Dream hunt, Wainwright and the experts from the foundation passed on their knowledge of those skills to Aaron. They also shared their faith. They're both essential parts of why the organization appeals so much to the 28-year-old hurler.
"My charities -- if I had my way, and so far, I have, and I think I'll continue to do that -- are always God-based. They always give back to the kingdom. It's not that you feel like you have to, it's that you should. I'm not naïve of the fact that I have a pretty big platform right now. And I'm not going to have a 50-year career in baseball. It's finite, a 10-year, 15-year, at most 20-year span -- and sometimes shorter than that. So it's important that you use your platform while you have it, the best you can."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.