Standing tall at 6'7", Adam Wainwright is an intimidating figure—something that certainly plays to his advantage as a Major League pitcher. But get him talking about his daughter, and you’d never know that the 25-year-old makes a living paralyzing big-league sluggers with his breaking curveball. In fact, when talking about little Baylie Grace, Wainwright barely resembles the man who struck out Detroit’s Brandon Inge for the final out of the 2006 World Series, giving the St. Louis Cardinals their first World Championship since 1982.

But covering up his inner softie while on the mound is something that Wainwright is getting used to... and good at. Beginning the 2007 season for the first time in a Major League starting rotation, Wainwright dismantled the Houston Astros in his first game, allowing just one earned run in seven strong innings and compelling Cards manager Tony La Russa to say, “Wainwright’s for real.” Undoubtedly, was Baylie Grace old enough to express it herself, she would have said the same thing.

Sharing the Victory Magazine: You were pretty under-the-radar until last fall’s World Series victory. How has your life changed since then?
Adam Wainwright: Tremendously. Nobody knew who I was last year, and probably most people still don’t—they probably think I’m a basketball player.

But it is nice to come home (to Georgia) and have people congratulate you. I come from a small town, and everyone at home is so proud of the hometown kid. And in St. Louis, the fans are the greatest. They’re great baseball fans in general, and they love their Cardinals. It’s nice when they recognize you. It lets you know that you are coming along and are successful at your job.

You are remembered specifically for throwing the last strike of the 2006 World Series. Describe that last pitch.
[Brandon Inge] is such a tough hitter, and he hit a double off me the night before to tie the game. So, mentally I was thinking, This is a tough hitter. Let’s show him a different look. And once I got two strikes on him, I was going to throw the best slider I could out of the strike zone and see if I could get him to chase it. If he put it into play, hopefully it was going to be hit softly. But I was just thinking, I’m going to throw the nastiest slider I can throw out of the strike zone, and hopefully we’ll be the champs.

After that, I don’t really remember much, because we were just going crazy. It was really a feeling of disbelief. We had come so far last year. We went from almost not getting into the playoffs to winning the whole thing—a complete 180 in the confidence of our whole team.

Your catcher for that play, Yadier Molina, like you, is a Christian. How important is the pitcher-catcher relationship when you are on the field?
I would say it’s very important. When you have a catcher back there that you believe in and trust to block every ball, and when you trust his pitch-calling ability, it makes everything easier. You don’t have to think nearly as much.

And Yadier makes everybody’s job easier. To me, he’s the best catcher in the game. Obviously, I haven’t thrown to all of them, but it’s hard for me to believe that there is a better defensive catcher. Not only that, but he makes you believe in yourself and makes you trust him. His being a Christian is just another plus, because he and I can connect on a different level. I’ve always respected him, so when he talks, I listen. And now we have other things to talk about.

Regarding your faith, how did you become a Christian?
I grew up going to church. My mom was a single parent, and she took my brother and me to church every Sunday that she could. It was a case of my going to church and claiming to be a Christian, but I really wasn’t walking the walk.