The Value of Great Teammates in Baseball

Adam Wainwright explains how two influential teammates helped him become one of the greatest pitchers of all time. 

In any sport, the value of teammates goes well beyond just having a group of people to play..

More experienced teammates can mentor younger players to improve their skills and help them the mindset required for high-level competition and training. hey can also role model standards for appropriate personal and professional behavior.

On a peer level, players can collaborate to develop a positive environment that supports the overall growth and development of everyone on the team. The benefits of such a supportive environment can not be overstated. 

Younger players who play sports enjoy better self-esteem, higher confidence, and improved mental health. Team sports in particular, aid in the development of essential life skills, like teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and relationship building. And while these are all good qualities to have for general life—they are essential for anyone wanting to pursue a professional career.

Put simply, learning how to utilize the value of great teammates can change the trajectory of an athlete’s entire career, and in turn their whole life.

To give a real-world case study of this in action, we asked veteran MLB pitcher Adam Wainwright, to discuss the role great teammates have played in his remarkable success. For more articles about Adam, and tons of other sports-related, content, make sure you sign up for one of our game plans.

Greatness Can Be Learned

Adam “Waino” Wainwright’s baseball career is the stuff of legends.

He’s been competing at the highest level for over two decades now, with multiple top-ten finishes in strikeouts, earned run average, walks, completed games, and hits per innings.

Waino is on his way to winning 200 games—currently sitting at 194. He recorded his 2000th career strikeout in 2021, posting one of the best statistical seasons of his career.

And while there is no question that Adam put in the work to get to where he is, he credits several key teammates for helping him achieve his impressive level of success.

In an exclusive video interview with Versus, Wainwright explained how two St Louis Cardinals teammates—pitcher, Chris “Carp” Carpenter (retired 2013) and catcher, Yadier “Yadi” Molina—have been instrumental in his development as a player.  

As Waino describes the influence each teammate had on him, it becomes clear that the habits, mindset, and skills that lead to greatness in baseball can be learned

But you won’t just soak up the wisdom of teammates automatically. Particularly in a game like baseball—where the roles and responsibilities of each position vary so widely—you must take the initiative to learn from great teammates.

We’ll cover Adam’s advice for doing just that in a moment. But if you would like to see him talk about it in the video for yourself, sign up for one of our plans right now.           

Our free plan gives you access to one video session of your choice. While the standard and premium options include the full library of video content from our star-studded roster. 

With any of our plans, you can utilize our advanced AI-powered technology to ask interactive questions from our team. Just imagine, being able to ask Waino how to perfect your curveball. Or getting hitting advice from his fellow Cardinals legend, Albert Pujols.

Versus has everything you need to get the most from your unique sporting potential—all on an easy to use digital platform you can access anywhere.

Until then, let’s take a look at how Adam Wainwright used the mentorship of Chris Carpenter to become one of baseball’s pitching greats.

A Model Apprenticeship

While it’s hard to believe it now, Wainwright states that when he was acquired by the Cardinals in 2005, “I needed to learn how to be a better professional.”

“I knew I needed to follow somebody,” Adam explained. “And it didn’t take me long to figure out that Chris Carpenter was the guy that I wanted to follow.”

Waino recounts that even before he had watched Carpenter pitch much, he could see that “his work ethic and tenacity in what he was doing was different to everyone else.” 

Even in Chris’ bullpen sessions, Adam noticed a “ferocity and intent behind every throw” that he hadn’t encountered before.Wainwright decided “I want to be just like him.” But he knew he had a long way to go before he was anywhere near Carp’s level. 

So what did Waino do? 

“I just started following him,” he said. “And tried to sponge off him as much as he could.”

Playing catch. Going to dinners. Breaking down film. Playing golf. Adam took every opportunity he could to soak up Chris Carpenter’s wisdom.

He explains that a lot of the time they were talking about pitching. But other times he would simply observe how Carpenter operated.

“I knew I had a long way I needed to go as a competitor,” claims Wainwright. “And Carp was doing the things I felt like I needed to do to get over the top.”

Now, much of this mentorship went as you would expect. 

Waino and Chris worked on pitching skills every single day. “He never let me take a day off,” claimed Wainwright. Remembering that Carp was always on at him about “keeping my arm at the right angle, breaking my hands at the right spot, and making sure my curveball broke at the right time.” 

But there was one lesson that stood out above all others. 

The “It Can’t” Mindset

In the video, Adam recalls sincerely asking Chris for advice while he was learning a two seam fastball, which he couldn’t seem to get to leak back onto the middle of the plate like it needed to.

“How do I stop that from happening?” he asked Carp, while they were both in the shower. Waino inquired.“What do you think when you’re throwing your two seamer to make that not happen?” 

Carpenter’s reply— “It can’t.”

Then he walked off.

Waino was rattled. “He’s just going to say it can’t and then leave,” he exclaimed. “I didn’t even know what just happened.”

So the next day, in the shower again, Wainwright asks to talk about the conversation the day before. “Dude, it can’t,” Chris stated again.

Flustered, Adam asks, “Are you saying that your fastball, your two-seam fastball, your sinker—it's impossible for it to come back over the middle of the plate? Like, you believe in it so much that you're going to hit the spot and it can't come back over the plate?”

“Yeah, it can’t,” replied Chris, then he walked out again.

Relieved that they were playing golf later that day, Waino waited until they were on the course to get to the bottom of Carpenter’s mysterious advice. “From the first hole to the 18th hole, we talked about the it can’t mindset,” he revealed.

Here’s exactly what Adam says about “it can’t” in the video:

“You have to have so much belief and conviction behind every pitch. When you see the target—that’s where you’re throwing it. That’s where it’s going to end up.

There’s no, all right, I’m going to throw it here. And if I miss, I’m going to miss out here.

Because then all you’re thinking about is where you’re going to miss—and then you end up missing because of that.

It can’t was a big game changer for my career and I’ll never forget it.”

The Core of a Winner’s Mentality

If you want to understand more about how Chris Carpenter’s philosophy influenced Wainwright’s thinking about baseball, check out the article covering one of his other mindset video sessions—Mentality Is Everything.

Waino doesn’t directly mention “it can’t” or Chris in the video. But after hearing this session on teammates, it’s clear that Carp’s mentorship greatly influenced Adam's ideas about everything from body language, to self-talk, to focus, mindset, and confidence. 

An example of “it can’t” in Wainwright’s mindset advice comes when he warns of the dangers of self-limiting beliefs. Stating, “Understand that if you place mental limitations on your abilities—there’s going to be limitations on your ability.”

Mindset clearly has a powerful impact on performance in baseball. And while players should spend time learning the finer details of how to develop a winning mentality, sometimes the simplest advice is the best.

In terms of a golden rule for mindset—learning to embody the “it can’t” mentality is an overarching principle that would serve all athletes well.

Adam rounds out this section by expressing a huge amount of gratitude for Chris Carpenter’s support and guidance. Stating, “He was just an incredible leader, an incredible mentor, and I  owe so much of my career to him.”

So that covers mentors. But what about the impact of teammates who are at a similar stage in their playing career? 

These teammates can still be incredibly valuable. However, the relationship is a little different to that of a mentor and mentee.

To illustrate this point, Waino moves on to his relationship with a player who is arguably one of the best catchers in MLB history—Yadier “Yadi” Molina.

An Unstoppable Duo

Yadi and Waino are legends in their own right. But the pair are also known for “an almost single minded synergy that has been their calling card for years.”

The duo have been teammates with the Cardinals for 17 years. And racked up their combined 317th start together in August 2022—the second highest in MLB history. 

Wainwright and Molina are famous for their signature double play. With Waino setting up the strike out, followed by Yadi throwing out a stealing runner. 

But their partnership goes much deeper than this. 

In the video, Waino describes how they both rose through the ranks of the minors as opponents at first, before landing at the Cardinals within a year of each other (Yadi in 2004, Waino in 2005).

When discussing his initial impression of working with Molina, Wainwright remarks. “I’d never pitched to a catcher like that.” 

“He could make a ball that was about to bounce look like a strike. He could block everything. He had the best arm I’d ever seen.

His movements behind the plate—it was otherworldly. It was just unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

He looked like he was moving too fast and he could slow it down too much. It was easy for him.”      

Further impressing Waino, was Yadi’s maturation as a hitter. 

While Yadier is more renowned for his defensive skills, Adam takes obvious delight in recounting Molina’s big home run in the 2006 National League Championship Series, which propelled the Cardinals to take out the World Series that year.

“He’s been the guy that's been up to the plate in so many clutch situations and come through,” states Wainwright. “He’s the guy you want up there in that big moment. When he walks up to bat and everybody starts chanting Yadi, Yadi, Yadi.”  

So what does this have to do with teamwork?

A Lesson In Inspiration and Friendship

By the end of Adam’s introduction, it’s clear that he’s been in awe of Molina’s skill, dedication, and growth since the pair started playing together.

“He’s got to be the toughest person I’ve ever met,” remarks Wainwright. “Watching him remain at the top and drive himself to be the best for so long—has been so inspiring,'' he adds.

And it’s here that Waino reveals the true value of having Yadi as a teammate.

The pair have been peers throughout their professional baseball careers, playing different, yet highly interconnected positions. 

It’s clear that the two players were continually feeding off each other's energy. Each setting new standards of performance and success for the other to aspire to. And alongside this individual development, they were collaborating daily to fuel their combined growth as a partnership. 

Each player would no doubt have been a success on their own. But when it comes to an example of the value of teammates—Yadier and Wainwright show how two athletes on a similar level can help each other reach higher peaks than they ever might have alone.

And let’s not forget one of the most important parts of team sports—friendship.

“It’s really been incredible to watch our families grow together,” states Adam. “Having our kids be able to play together and look back on all the memories we’ve had.”

Wainwright closes out the video by stating,

“It's just been a wonderful relationship to have with such a great person, a great teammate, and a friend that I'll have forever.”

Relationships Must Be Cultivated

A key takeaway from Adam’s video is that great relationships with teammates don’t happen by accident.

Just because you play on the same team, doesn’t mean you and a teammate will automatically connect.

In both the examples from this video, Wainwright went to significant effort to cultivate a positive and productive relationship with a teammate.

In the case of Chris Carpenter, Adam proactively sought out a mentorship with a more senior player he wanted to emulate. This takes assertiveness, courage, and humility.

With Yadier Molina, Wainwright stepped up to match the energy, drive, and aspiration of one of his high-performing peers. To do this effectively, a player must be open-minded, receptive to collaboration, and willing to stretch to levels they might not feel are possible on their own. 

In the short term, this can feel like extra work. And yet another thing to add to your already full plate. But no athlete gets to the top on their own. 

Every great sports person learns from, connects with, and gives back to great teammates along the way. 

It’s not only the best way to grow and develop as an athlete. It’s how you tap into all the benefits of sports outside of competition. Like friendships that last for a lifetime. And building personal skills like teamwork, leadership abilities, and a strong work ethic.

Remember, this article is just a summary of what’s covered in the full video on the value of great teammates in baseball.

If you want to learn more about the value of teammates in baseball, and how to enjoy them like Adam Wainwright, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to his  lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.

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