Kerry Wood steps into the great wide open


Kerry Wood steps into the great wide open

Kerry Wood felt the same adrenaline before his first inning in the big leagues. His last time in a Cubs uniform brought back the same mix of nerves and excitement.

Wood was a 20-year-old rookie facing the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium on April 12, 1998. Nearing his 35th birthday, now married with three children, he saved his most memorable moment for the end.

Walking off the mound on Friday at Wrigley Field, Wood knew Justin might be in the dugout, but he didnt expect his son to run out for a big hug.

My favorite memory, Wood said. You cant get any higher than that.

The rush is going to start wearing off now. Wood went to a Little League game on Saturday, before standing behind a podium at home plate for his retirement press conference. He was at peace knowing he wouldnt have to crank up his right shoulder again, hoping it would work.

With Cubs players and coaches standing behind him, and team executives lining the perimeter, Wood looked into the television cameras, his eyes hidden by sunglasses.

Wood looked like he was about to lose it while talking about his wife Sarah: Shes been through the ups, the downs. Sometimes it seemed like there were more downs than ups. But she was my rock.

Wood thanked the Ricketts family, former general manager Jim Hendry (for having his back) and the managers he considered father figures (Jim Riggleman, Dusty Baker).

Wood thanked the teammates who taught him how to play the game the right way and the late Ron Santo for teaching me what it meant to be a Cub.

Wood who has a sharp sense of humor and could be prickly with reporters even thanked the media and kept rolling: Obviously, we know we need to thank some trainers and doctors.

The injuries are part of Woods legacy, and hes comfortable with that. He retires with an 86-75 career record, 63 saves, 1,582 strikeouts and a 3.67 ERA. He averaged 10.32 strikeouts per nine innings in his career, the second-highest total of any pitcher in major-league history behind only Randy Johnson.

You know when its time, Wood said. Your bodys telling you and obviously the results were telling me. So Ive got no regrets. I played this game as long as I could, as hard as I could.

It made me who I was. If I didnt have those injuries, Im not sure I would be the person I am.

Wood doesnt know what hes going to do next, except spend more time with his family.

After recharging, Wood is open to a role in the front office similar to the one Greg Maddux once took with Hendry, as a special assistant working with the organizations young pitchers.

Is there anyone better to teach them about handling fame and adversity?

Weve gone through a lot, Wood said. I couldnt have asked for anything more. Im not going to look back and say: It could have been, what should have been.

Yes, the flamethrower from Grand Prairie High School has come a long way. He has no plans to leave Chicago.

I love the city (and) the attitude of the people, Wood said. Im a kid from Texas that showed up here at 17 or 18 years old and took a white-knuckle cab ride all the way to the stadium from the airport. I just never thought Id be able to it. The place grows on you.

Wood has earned more than 70 million in his career, according to the salary database at He can do whatever he wants with the rest of his life.

Wood never won a World Series ring or the Cy Young awards others may have envisioned when he was the next big thing. But he will walk away with one unforgettable image from Clark and Addison, a place fathers and sons have been coming to for generations.

Its home this is why I came back, Wood said. These fans, this stadium, this atmosphere, day games, everything about it. This place was just beautiful and rocking and thats the way I want to remember Wrigley Field.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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