To some, the opportunity to step foot on Wrigley Field and play catch is a dream come true. To others, the dream is to just play catch.
Together, Kerry Wood, the Wood Family Foundation, and Cubs Charities are making both happen.
Whether it be through ideas to get fans on Wrigley Field, such as Woody’s Wiffleball Classic or the Battle of the Bats, or social gatherings like the Winter Warm-Up, Wood’s goal is the same: raise money to benefit Chicagoland’s youth through unique opportunities for fans.
Take the Battle of the Bats for example. Wood brought in former Cubs Jon Lieber and Todd Wellemeyer to help provide an experience that many only accomplish in video games. FanRag Sports was there with 30 others to participate in a home run derby at Wrigley Field in an effort to raise money for the Wood Family Foundation.
Participants walked in through the Wrigley Field gates before being shown the way to the visiting clubhouse where they’d meet their own personal locker. That’s where they found their fresh Battle of the Bats jerseys and hats awaiting. From there, it was off to the field to warm up for the special event.
Meanwhile, kids in the four primary Chicagoland communities of the Wood Family Foundation–Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park and Lawndale–would just like one of those things. There aren’t always clubhouses or personal lockers available to them. Forget Wrigley Field, some kids just want any field. Old shirts, pants and hats will do the job, but new ones certainly don’t hurt.
For the Battle of the Bats players and guests donning red and blue jerseys, having the opportunity to spend an afternoon in Wrigley Field getting to know not only other Cubs fans in attendance but Wood, Lieber and Wellemeyer as well is a day that can’t be beat.
For the kids wearing green “Pitch In” shirts, their day couldn’t get much better, either. And they don’t even know who Lieber or Wellemeyer are. And they probably didn’t know who Kerry Wood was before meeting him.
The Wood Family Foundation strives to provide Chicagoland kids something every kid deserves: opportunity. The Pitch In Mentoring Program is a key component to reaching that goal. The program provides children in the previously mentioned Chicago neighborhoods with support and structure as part of an on-going relationship that is more than a one-time visit.
Through the Pitch In program, kids have a safe place to go where they can come one step closer to reaching greater opportunities rather than possibly falling into the traps that are present in their communities. Lawndale students in the Pitch In program get to see life outside of their neighborhood through field trips, additional education, guest speakers and more.
For them, seeing life outside of the neighborhood could make all of the difference.
In the month of July alone, North Lawndale saw 344 violent, property and quality of life violence cases. There were 332 cases in Englewood, 436 in Humboldt Part and an eye-opening 940 in Austin.
But not every child has to go through that. That’s where Wood’s foundation comes in.
The Wood Family Foundation raised more than $100,000 at the Battle of the Bats to raise awareness for its children’s programs and other children’s charities they support. The $100,000 added to the already-$3.5 million that Wood and his wife Sarah have raised in the past 12 years.
In September, the Wood Family Foundation will host two events. The first is the Lawndale Baseball Clinic on September 12 and 13 followed by the 1st Annual Storybook Gala, which will have an afterparty following the event.
Wood is the perfect person to serve as an ambassador for change amongst today’s youth.
Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1995, Wood made Chicago his home after growing up in Texas. Wood saw the highs of All-Star Game appearances, winning Rookie of the Year Award and bringing the Cubs to the playoffs. Arm injuries throughout his career also showed him the lows. But through it all, his relationship with the team, city and organization never wavered.
Chicago will always love Wood and his family like he’s one of the city’s own. But Wood has never been bigger than any one thing. He was never bigger than the Cubs and never made himself the star of the show. Wood made the most of his chance then, and he’s making the most of his platform now.
In the end, Wood would say, it’s not about him. It’s about the kids.
No matter what end of the spectrum you find yourself at — the faithful Cubs fan with aspirations of playing baseball on Wrigley Field or the kid with a dream of playing on any field — Kerry Wood and the Chicago Cubs are doing their best to give that opportunity.