For Kerry Wood there are some things bigger than baseball. There’s having a good attitude and overcoming adversity. And there’s setting a good example for your kids.
That, says Wood, is why he stayed in baseball after it became clear that his arm couldn’t handle the number of pitches it used to be able to throw. His son Justin, now six, would have been too young to remember his father as a major league baseball player if Wood had quit when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 2009 and the New York Yankees in 2010.
“When I’m on the field I’m competing with my teammates to win a game but I’m out there for a reason,” Wood writes in “All You Can Be: Learning and growing through sports,” his new book written with Carrie Muskat. “It’s still fun, but I don’t forget the fact that my son was my motivation to keep playing this game.”
Wood is not playing professional baseball anymore. He retired earlier in May after playing one final inning for the Chicago Cubs. Justin came out on the field and hugged him as he was walking off the mound.
Now Wood is working with his wife, Sarah, running the Wood Family Foundation, which helps Chicago youth. The foundation helped build a playroom for kids at the new Lurie Children’s Hospital, and they’re running a program this summer that will provide more than 15,000 school supplies to kids in Humboldt Park and Englewood.
“Parents don’t have the money for that,” said Sarah Wood at a meet-and-greet at Wrigley Field this week. “Normally what happens is that teachers dip into their funds, but most children go without the supplies.”
The Wood Foundation is also holding its annual bowling fundraiser, the Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling Tournament, June 27 at the 10 Pin Bowling Lounge. You can bowl with a celebrity, or just stand and watch. You can also go to woodfamilyfoundation.org to sign up for a silent auction that includes the prize of fishing with Kerry.
The book, too, will generate income for the Wood Foundation. Kerry says he was approached by publisher Triumph Books to write the inspirational story about a year ago. He and Muskat, who covers the Cubs for MLB.com, kind of “pieced it together on road trips. She would get there a couple of hours before the guys got there” and he spooled out his story.
Seven chapters of the book impart important life lessons for kids:
- Aim high for your goals
- Be a good teammate
- Stand tall, even if you’re not
- Stay positive
- Put your family first
- Keep working – before and after you succeed
Muskat says since she has been covering Wood since he was a teenager, she wasn’t surprised by much of what he shared, but was pleased to hear the story of Wood “going up to a teammate and telling him how much the teammate needed to put the team first and not himself first.
“That reinforced my idea that he’s very much a leader on the Cubs,” Muskat says.
Triumph’s idea was to have Chicago Public School kids participate by drawing scenes that exemplify Wood’s themes. All of the illustrations in the book were done by CPS students.
At the recent Wrigley event, all 25 of the students were invited to meet Wood and have him sign autographs.
Gionnie A. Hernandez, an 8th grader at Irma C. Ruiz Elementary, says he was inspired to draw his illustration of a family sitting on a couch cheering for the Cubs because “family is the most important thing.”
The soft-spoken Jesus Perez, an 8th grader at Joseph Jungman Elementary, contributed the inside cover drawing, of a hand reaching for the stars. He said this is his idea of what dreaming is about.
Some of the kids I talked to at Wrigley said that they wanted to be professional illustrators. But some had never drawn before. And none of them had ever been published.
Mitch Rogatz, publisher of Triumph Books, said the idea for the book started a few years ago with then-Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, who is from Chicago. That first “All You Can Be” book, published in 2009, was done in conjunction with the Detroit Public Schools. When Granderson was traded to the Yankees a year later, Rogatz saw an opportunity to duplicate the book with New York school kids. They’ve also done a book with Orlando Magic player Dwight Howard, in association with the Boys and Girls Club of Orlando.
Asked which of the seven lessons in “All You Can Be” Wood thinks is most important, he said “don’t give up when adversity is put in front of you.” Wood’s elbow and shoulder injuries could have sidelined him years ago, but he persevered, setting a shining example of what you can accomplish when you don’t give up.