I feel the description of “national treasure” is overrated, especially when it comes to sports.
It’s not that I think it is disrespectful to the Nicolas Cage movie that premiered in 2004. It’s just how can hundreds of people be considered national treasures? Where do you draw the line? What are the criteria?
So when I use the phrase myself, I’m not messing around.
A “patriotic treasure” moment happened last Sunday night while waiting for a baseball game to start.
I was sitting at my desk in the News Tribune desk, writing the high school team’s season preview story, when I peeked at the TV and noticed the ESPN camera crew behind Adam Wainwright in St. Louis Cardinals Bullpen.
Television is usually muffled in the office, so at first I just assumed that ESPN was getting a close-up of Wainwright during the warm-up before starting his 384th MLB career. But when I looked again a few seconds later, another camera angle showed Wainwright talking.
I quickly grabbed the remote and turned the volume up.
As it turns out, Wainwright was ready while throwing wamup pitches to Yadier Molina before ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” game.
“I’ll tell you, in my earlier years, I wouldn’t have agreed to do this,” Wainwright said. “But often, I get asked about my warm-up routine.”
Wainwright discussed the differences in his routine from the average bowler. He does not spend much time playing and warming up for a long time. He only runs off the hill and focuses on keeping the ball in the strike zone.
He stressed that a bad warm-up shouldn’t dictate what you do in the game.
He said that when he came through the Braves minor league system, he would throw two Bullpen sessions between starts instead of just one.
He noticed how a bowler’s routine should not become a myth, something I definitely knew I was guilty of as a teenager.
“I hope this here brings a little excitement to our baseball game, because I love that they do that kind of thing in the NFL,” Wainwright said.
By the time the 14-minute pre-match session was over, it was clear to me. Wainwright was offering a free tutorial to the national audience, something we don’t see every day.
He also wrote some funny lines.
“All the shooters in the house laugh at me too, because I snore by throwing 88 (mph). Give it time.”
“If that cutter stays right there, he (the Atlanta Braves) will be in trouble.”
The Cardinals pay him millions of dollars, but when he retires, Wainwright guarantees he’ll have millions of cash to be a color commentator on the baseball broadcast.
At 41 – and with another win Saturday night – Wainwright has shown his stuff is good enough to offer at least another season, if he so desires.
But as long as he stays around baseball, he will always be a national treasure.