JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- Adam Wainwright remembers a moment from his early days as ball player. He was still finding his way, far from the stardom and financial success awaiting him later in his career, when veteran pitcher reached out to help him with something small. The act stayed with him.
“I remember I wore a couple of tired collared shirts a couple days in a row into the field and Mark Mulder bought me a whole box of collared shirts,” he said.
It was a small gesture, a have reaching out to a have not. But it impacted him in such a way that once he had taken the elevator to the top, he took care to send it back down.
26-year-old Ryan Sherriff was invited to major league camp this season following a strong Triple-A campaign and a turn in the Arizona Fall League in 2016. Unlike most players in Jupiter, Sherriff didn’t have a car to get to and from the complex. Instead he walked every day, leaving early to arrive for the same early morning report time as everybody else with wheels.
But his dawn sojourns didn’t go unnoticed. Wainwright was watching.
“I passed him three days in a row, and I was like, ‘Ok.’ He was at three different parts, too, on the walk. So he’s obviously coming from farther away than I thought,” Wainwright said, explaining his mental deductions. “The first time I passed him he was right here by the [complex] and I thought he maybe just lives across the street. The second time he was a little further and I thought maybe he was just right there. The third time, he was pretty [far away] and I was like, ‘Wait a second. Where are you coming from dude?’”
The walk wasn’t all that far, and Sherriff told the Cardinal veteran he didn’t mind the walk. But Wainwright pressed, and when he discovered Sherriff was walking to the grocery store for meals, he decided to offer a hand.
The 35-year-old paid to rent a car for the prospect, and it arrived Wednesday after team activities had wrapped up.
Sherriff told reporters he was moved to tears by the gesture, and began working on a thank you. He settled on a gift basket of sorts, using what he knew about Wainwright to present him with a collection of the Georgia native’s favorite things.
Ryan Sherriff has been walking to spring training every day. Waino found out, bought him a rental car. Sherriff: "It brought me to tears."— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) March 2, 2017
Wainwright went to his locker Thursday to discover a Chick-fil-A gift card, a jug of sweet tea and a bottle of what was intended to be barbecue sauce. Sherriff had nailed the right avenues, he had just misfired on one piece of the execution.
“It was funny, he wrote a very nice note to me and he’s a funny guy. He wrote, ‘I accidentally bought steak sauce instead of barbecue sauce.’ So it’s A-1 sauce. It made it even better I think,” Wainwright said with a grin. “He nailed the thank you gift. That’s the best thank you gift I ever had. Chick-fil-A is one of my love languages.”