Wood officially says goodbye on his terms
Pitcher thanks family, organization and Cubs fans
CHICAGO -- So, how did Kerry Wood's right shoulder feel on Saturday, the first day of his post-baseball life?
"Awesome," Wood said.
On Saturday, Wood made it official, formally announcing his retirement in a brief and intimate ceremony at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs pitcher thanked his wife, Sarah, and his father for teaching him how to pitch and play the game the right way. He thanked the late Ron Santo for "teaching me what it meant to be a Cub," remembering long talks in the clubhouse kitchen. He thanked former managers Jim Riggleman and Dusty Baker, who were "father figures" to him.
"I'm excited for the future and I'm excited to watch what these guys are going to be capable of doing," Wood said, citing young Cubs Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and James Russell. "These guys are starting the journey I'm ending today, and I'm looking forward to watching these guys grow and learn this game and ultimately bring a championship to the city that deserves it."
Kerry Wood calls it a career
He thanked former pitching coaches Oscar Acosta and Larry Rothschild, now with the Yankees, who had to remind Wood how to hold for the ball for his slider every spring. And he thanked Cubs fans.
"This is home," Wood said of Chicago. "This is why I came back. The fans, this stadium. [Friday] was the best weather day we had, this place was beautiful and rocking. That's the way I want to remember Wrigley Field and that's the way I will remember it."
Wood's last appearance was Friday when he entered in the eighth inning against the White Sox and struck out Dayan Viciedo on three pitches. He had asked for one more outing.
"I was always a Cub, I've always been a Cub, and I'll always continue to be a Cub," said Wood, standing near the pitcher's mound on Saturday, surrounded by the current team and manager Dale Sveum.
Cubs owner Laura Ricketts presented Wood with a photo of the pitcher hugging his son, Justin, as he came off the field Friday, and also the flag commemorating his 20-strikeout game May 6, 1998, which had been flying over Wrigley Field.
"You know when it's time," Wood said. "The body was telling me and obviously, the results were telling me. I've got no regrets. I've played this game as long as I could, as hard as I could and I'm fine with that."
What's next for Wood? He's not sure. For now, he'll play with his kids. On Saturday, he could watch Justin's Little League game.
"He was just one of those fierce competitors," Angels pitcher LaTroy Hawkins said of Wood. "He came up with all the hype, but he wasn't a spoiled prima donna. He was a humble man."
Wood, 34, retires with a career 86-75 record, 63 saves, 1,582 strikeouts and a 3.67 ERA in 446 Major League appearances, including 178 starts. He averaged 10.32 strikeouts per nine innings, the second-highest total of any pitcher in Major League history behind only Randy Johnson's 10.61 mark.
"When the stuff came out of his hand, it was unbelievable, and you just knew any time he was starting a game something special could happen," said White Sox pitcher Philip Humber, a fellow Texan, who grew up watching Wood pitch. "It's sad when guys who've been that good and that electric for so long have to walk away."
To be able to end a career on your terms is something not many players can do. Wood's previous favorite baseball moment was hitting a home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the Marlins. That changed on Friday.
"My favorite memory and best memory in 14 years was walking off the field and having Justin run out and meet me," Wood said. "You can't beat that. I wasn't expecting it. I knew he might be in the dugout, but I did not expect him to run out and hug me and he didn't want to let go. You can't put anything above that."
Wood will stay involved in the community. He and Sarah founded the Wood Family Foundation in June 2011, a non-profit organization that acts as an advocate for children in the Chicago community and inspires others to join them in their mission of giving children the resources they need to succeed.
There were probably more than a few veteran players who thought about how they will exit the game.
"We all know when it's time," Hawkins said. "I think it takes a special person to know when it's time, as opposed to somebody telling you it's time. I think I want to go out like that, too. I don't want anybody to tell me I'm done. It's pretty cool."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.