Thankful Kerry Wood officially retires
CHICAGO -- With his wife and kids at his side, and all his Chicago Cubs teammates, as well as the coaching staff, standing in full uniform behind him, Kerry Wood made his retirement official Saturday afternoon.
If Friday was about getting in his last major league pitch, Saturday was about thanking everybody that made his career last as long as it did.
Standing at Wrigley Field's home plate, the area he focused on so many times during a 15-year career, Wood not only saluted the coaches and players he worked with but also reserved kind words for the doctors and physical therapists that brought him back time and time again from injury.
There were no tears, and from the sound of it, there are no regrets. He called his final day as a major leaguer on Saturday the most memorable of his career, ahead of playoff appearances, his 20-strikeout game and everything else he has done in baseball.
Afterward, he had one more session with the media to talk about why he chose to walk away now.
"I didn't have to try to crank this thing up today and come in and stretch or do anything like that," said Wood, who received as a retirement gift a blown up framed photo of him hugging his son on the field as his outing ended Saturday. "I got to watch a Little League game this morning and loved every minute of it."
As recommended by president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, Wood will focus solely on family now. Helping the club in any and all capacities will come later.
"I'm going to take some time here and enjoy the family," Wood said. "I'm really going to just enjoy it for a little while and I'm definitely going to miss the game and I'm going to be watching and I'll be around."
The debate over where he ranks among the greats in the game could rage on forever, but what can't be disputed is his spot among the most loved players in Cubs history. For the second consecutive day, he was asked how he thinks he became so beloved.
"I think just being here so long and bouncing back from injuries," Wood said. "People like to see guys not quit and give up, and things work out for them when they battle through stuff. I've been battling injuries since after my first year. It made me who I was. If I didn't have those injuries, I don't think I would be the person I am."
Texts and phone calls have been flooding in for the last 24 hours, including one from good friend Eddie Vedder, the Pearl Jam lead singer. Curiously it's an injured Vedder who could have probably used a call from Wood, the master of rehab.
Wood says that indeed Pearl Jam concerts are in his future, as well as fatherly activities, before coaching and working in the community take up much of his time. He might be a Texas guy but Chicago is where his heart is now.
"I just love the city, love the atmosphere," Wood said. "I love the attitude of the people, love just everything about it. Again I'm a kid from Texas who showed up here at 17 or 18 years old and had a white-knuckle cab ride all the way to the stadium from the airport. I just never thought I'd be able to do it. The place grows on you and I just love everything about it."
At least he can still have Chicago, even if he can no longer play. It's a reality he's fine with at this stage of his life.
"Just knowing after you throw one day you're not going to go the next day, is frustrating from the standpoint of a guy who is supposed to be able to go every day," Wood said. "And knowing the way the game works, I know the manager's hands are tied when he can't use me back-to-back days or even two days.
"You know when it's time. The body was telling me and obviously the results were telling me. So I've got no regrets. I played this game as long as I could and as hard as I could. And I'm fine saying that."