ST. LOUIS – Adam Wainwright has spent a lot of Opening Days on the mound (six to be exact). For his final one as a player, he drew an assignment he has never had for a St. Louis Cardinals home opener.

Wainwright landed on the injured list last week, so he couldn’t pitch in the home opener. Instead, he traded his glove for a microphone. To the surprise of the Busch Stadium crowd, he sang the National Anthem.

The Cardinals had planned to honor Wainwright with some sort of gesture before the game as the 41-year-old embarks on his final MLB season. It was initially thought there might be a video presentation to honor his accomplishments.

“A few days ago, when we were still in Jupiter, they told me, when they had planned on starting me, [there would be] a tribute today. They wanted me to pick someone special to me, so I was going to have Gary [Baker] and Greg [Barnhill] sing [the National Anthem] while I warmed up. Those are my buddies.

After his injury, which came during a workout ahead of the World Baseball Classic championship, there was a new inspiration.

“When I got hurt, Melody Yount called me and said, ‘What do you think [about performing the National Anthem]? I think it would be neat for you and for St. Louis if you would do it.’ I said no, and she goes, ‘I’ll give you a few minutes to think about it.’ I called her back 10 minutes later and said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.'”

Wainwright recently discovered his passion for music, and he’s challenged himself to take on new heights in recent years. He produced 17 studio recordings over the offseason and put on a charity concert through Big League Impact in January.

Singing in front of 46,000-plus was quite a challenge, and Wainwright says maybe even more so than preparing for a start.

“I went a little slower than I wanted to go,” said Wainwright. “Very tough. Props to anyone who does that, because it’s very tough with the delay. You sing it, and then you hear yourself sing it a whole second and a half later. You start listening to yourself, and it slows your tempo down. It shows my rookie self.”

Besides Wainwright, very few at the ballpark knew he would be singing the National Anthem. It even came as a surprise to Cardinals manager Oli Marmol.

“I thought Adam did a nice job,” said Marmol on the performance. “I thought the pace was slow,” he adds jokingly, “but I thought all the vocals were good.”

Wainwright’s performance of the Star-Spangled Banner followed an electric violin performance of O’ Canada to welcome the Toronto Blue Jays. Before that, tens of thousands of fans enjoyed a pregame ceremony with Clydesdales, Cardinals Hall of Famers and car escorts for the Opening Day roster.

The Cardinals lost a back-and-forth marathon by a score of 10-9 to the Blue Jays. Both return to Busch Stadium for the second games of the season Saturday afternoon.