Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2011

Commentary: Wood happy to be back with Cubs

June 30, 2011


Kerry Wood, welcome to Twitter. Have fun, be yourself and keep the tweeting device away from your son.

Now we understand a little better why Kerry Wood turned down at least $10 million more from two other teams for another season of bad baseball with the Cubs.

Now we know why the money Wood makes in the game matters less to him than the kind he plans to raise in the community alongside his wife and three children. Why Wood wants to stay in Chicago no matter how badly another city’s baseball team might covet him before the trade deadline.

It’s hard to launch the Wood Family Foundation to help Chicagoland kids, which Kerry and Sarah Wood will do today at Wrigley Field, without actually being in Chicago. Wood’s ambitious goals include building a high school baseball stadium, giving out 1,000 coats, buying school supplies for Chicago Public Schools students and expanding his reach for the first time via social networks such as Twitter.

Good luck finding a Chicago athlete more committed to use his platform in a positive way than the modern-day Mr. Cub.

“Our grand scheme is helping local kids any way possible,” Wood said Wednesday. “We don’t have a family business to hand down but this is something one day we can give our children (Justin, 5; Katie, 3; Charlotte, 20 months) to run for a long time. We’re going to make a difference.”

To get back to being a factor on the mound, Wood tested the blister on his right index finger in a simulated game Wednesday and expects to come off the disabled list before Friday’s Cubs-White Sox series. Even before the layoff, this season couldn’t have been what Wood expected returning to his baseball roots.

You don’t plan a homecoming because you anticipate a housecleaning. You don’t give Jim Hendry a bargain-basement, one-year, $1.5 million deal to spend the summer spiraling toward the NL Central cellar.

“It’s been tough,” Wood acknowledged. “We’re all frustrated. We have to figure out at least how to make the second half fun to come to work because there have been times it hasn’t been fun to come to work.”

My sense is Wood should lead the National League in regrets. He disagrees.

“Nope,” he said. “This is where I want to be. This was still the right move regardless of the outcome of the season. I feel like it’s part of my job to help point this organization in the right direction. I’ve got to do my part.”

What if that involves accepting a trade that would bring the Cubs a top prospect? Besides first baseman Carlos Pena, Wood likely will pique the most interest among teams looking for bullpen help due to his talent, experience and cheap price. But when I brought up the July 31 trade deadline, Wood quickly mentioned Sept. 18 — the date of his foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

“At this point I don’t see it,” Wood said, who hasn’t discussed the possibility yet with his wife or Hendry. “We came back for other reasons than just baseball. I’d never say never, but unless it absolutely helps this organization, I don’t think I would do it.”

This lost season has been anything but calming for Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, the source of growing consternation. I maintain it would help Ricketts to share more specifics of his long-range, top-to-bottom plan to rebuild the Cubs with a fan base he was supposed to represent. Wood respects the idea but sees a gap between perception and reality — and, in fact, sometimes sees Ricketts more than he would like.

“He’s very approachable, very genuine and wants the best for the Cubs, so if people knew him the way we do, they’d have a different view,” Wood said. “Honestly, at this point, the way we’re playing, you feel so bad that every time I see him I try to jump into a locker and hide.”

For years to come in Chicago, you won’t have to look so hard to find Wood.


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