Kerry Wood ready to pitch in, help Cubs

Prior to Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs held a ceremony to honor Kerry Wood's accomplishments with the team. From the way most were talking, it was hardly a going away party for Wood, as it appears that both the Cubs, and Wood himself, expect him to once again be a part of the organization.

“We’ve kicked some ideas around, (I’ve) met with and talked to Theo about it,” Wood said about a possible role with the Cubs. “We’re all kinda on the same page and I’m sure we’ll get something done soon and work out all the details. (I) definitely want to be around and definitely want to be involved. In what aspect, we’ll figure that out probably this winter.”

Wood added that he expected to be visible at both spring training and Cubs Convention in the future. While he didn’t anticipate being a coach and claimed to have no desire to someday be a general manager, he emphasized that he wanted to be a part of the team some way, not a public face that would “go around town cutting ribbons and kissing babies.”

Though he is yet to have an official title, it didn’t stop Wood from campaigning for some other former Cubs to come around more often and once again be a part of the organization.

“Hopefully we’ll get Ryno back,” Wood said of Ryne Sandberg, who spent this past season managing the Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A affiliate. “Actually, it wouldn’t be bad thing to see Sammy (Sosa) come around too. He did a lot for this organization and a lot for this city. It’d be a shame for him not to come back.”

Hearing Wood mention Sosa was a bit of a surprise as Sosa’s tenure with the Cubs ended on bad terms. After a late season collapse left the Cubs out of the playoff chase on the last game of the 2004 season, Sosa added to the negative atmosphere by leaving Wrigley Field before the end of that final game. Sosa was traded that offseason to the Baltimore Orioles and hasn’t been associated with the Cubs organization since.

But Wood is apparently attempting to start a movement to have the team and the city get past those bad feelings.

“Certain things ended certain ways, but it’s a new group of people here,” Wood said. “It’s a new ownership, it’s a new attitude, it’d be a shame to not have those guys be a part of it. Sammy and (Mark) McGwire pretty much single-handedly brought the fans back to baseball. Sammy did tremendous things for this city. We all know how he left and how it ended with him. But ultimately, that one mistake that he made at the end shouldn’t determine his future here in Chicago.”

Cubs manager Dale Sveum has only been with the Cubs for one season, but he believes that the presence of former greats can have a strong impact on a young team.

“I think it’s very important,” Sveum said. “It’s important in spring training and throughout a season to have these great players -- especially the high-character guys -- be around. It’s meaningful to these guys to see these types of people. I know it was in Milwaukee whenever Robin (Yount) was around. It’s special to bring back those guys.”

Sveum said there are few former Cubs who can match Wood’s legacy, bringing up names like Ron Santo and Sandberg.

“I don’t think you can ever fill that role of Ron Santo or Billy (Williams) and Fergie (Jenkins),” Wood said. “Those guys are ambassadors, when you think of Cubs baseball those are the names that come to mind. You can’t replace that and we’ll never try to. I’m just going to do my part. My playing days are over, but I’m a Cub and I want to be involved.”

As for Wood’s life after baseball, the father of three said he’s spent a lot of time at Little League games and soccer games as well as doing some fishing, at one point calling himself a ‘carpool dad’.

“I miss the guys, I miss being in the clubhouse,” Wood said. “But honestly, I don’t miss it much. I’ve had a great summer, I’ve really enjoyed it. Obviously you miss the competition. I’m starting to get a little bit bored, so I’m going to have to find something to do.”

Wood pointed out that he has the rare experience of facing the pressure that comes with playing for the Cubs as a 20-year-old. It’s obvious that Wood feels that he’s learned many things during his time with the Cubs and could pass along his knowledge to help ease future Cubs during their transition to the big leagues.

“We’re gonna have some young players coming up here in the next couple years,” Wood said. “It’s not easy for a young player to come up. First of all you’re playing day games all the time, you’re on a big stage. It’s a great town, but there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that.”

Though it was tough for Wood to see the people who brought him into the Cubs organization nearly two decades ago move on, he knows that the team is headed in the right direction.

“I know how hard Theo and his team are working and what they’re doing,” Wood said. “It’s not going to be easy, but they’re doing what they need to do to turn this organization around. Ultimately, if we end up putting ourselves in a position to be in the postseason every year, no one’s going to remember the first two years of struggles.”