"Let him hit it," yelled one of the schoolteachers who was being honored by a sponsor.
Wainwright, tabbed as the National League starter on Monday, just grinned as the room at the Hyatt Regency laughed. And then Wainwright left no doubt: If Derek Jeter records a memorable moment off him in the first inning of his last All-Star Game it won't happen because the St. Louis Cardinals ace grooved a pitch.
"He has proven to be good enough that you don't have to let him hit anything," Wainwright said.
In being selected to take the hill for the National League, Wainwright was not only guaranteed to know which three batters he'll face first on Tuesday night but also to face two batters he's never seen before.
The other is Jeter, who will lead off for the AL.
Despite pitching for nine seasons, Wainwright has never faced three teams in the regular season: the Yankees, the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox (though he pitched against Boston in last year's World Series). Wainwright says his unfamiliarity with Jeter goes even deeper, having never faced him in the Grapefruit League or the postseason.
"I'm very excited about it, just to say I faced the best," Wainwright said. "And he is undoubtedly one of the best to ever play his position. One of the greatest Yankees of all time."
Wainwright was in a close race with Clayton Kershaw to get the honor to start, but his line of 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA over 138 innings got him the push from his own manager Mike Matheny to start. He said he felt "fortunate" and "very proud" to face Jeter, sentiments he echoed when describing the honor overall.
"Aside from having the ability to win two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, I think this has to be one of the highlights of my baseball career to this point," Wainwright said. "One of the coolest things I can say I did is to start a big league All‑Star Game.
"I am incredibly happy and fortunate to be placed in this situation."
- - - - - - -