Wood hitting a homer with his foundation’s fundraising event

Battle-of-Bats-Preview-0040(Photo Courtesy Wood Family Foundation)

In his playing days, Kerry Wood was one of the toughest pitchers in baseball. There’s no way he was going to let a little rain keep fans away from Wrigley Field for one of his signature events.

On July 10, the Wood Family Foundation will host the second-annual Kerry Wood and Friends Battle of the Bats Home Run Derby. The event gives fans a chance to step into the batter’s box at the Friendly Confines and take their hacks in front of the ivy. The derby was originally scheduled for May 25, but it was rained out. The event gives fans a chance to live out their childhood dreams by stepping into the batter’s box and taking their hacks at Wrigley Field.

“I think both Cubs Charities and my foundation realized what kind of an event it can be,” said former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood. “Last year, we had a great turnout, a great event. We raised a lot of money for charities, so I think we’re looking to do bigger and better this year.”

What makes the event truly special is that participants get to do something unique and possibly something they have been dreaming of their whole lives. Though Wood was able to step into the Wrigley Field batter’s box on 190 regular-season occasions throughout his 14-year big-league career, what this opportunity means to fans isn’t lost on the ex-Cub. With money being raised for his foundation and participants having a good time, the event becomes twice as rewarding.

“I think when you’re running a foundation or you’re doing it for charity or anything to raise money, you do [make]… experiences,” Wood said. “You get the emails after it’s over, and they all had great stories.

“We had people in bare feet in the grass in the outfield, walking around. I don’t think I’ve done that—walk around in the outfield in my bare feet.”

Some of Wood’s former Cubs teammates are scheduled to on hand, and Wood said others will likely make an appearance. Contestants will each get 10 outs—that’s any swing that isn’t a home run. The top 10 qualifiers will reach the second round, with the top three going to the finals.

Interested parties can sign up in teams of four with a $15,000 minimum donation, or as individuals for $3,500. New this year, the top six high school-aged fundraisers will also get an opportunity to compete.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Cubs Charities and the Wood Family Foundation’s Pitch In Program. The Pitch In Program partners young students, fourth grade and up, with a caring adult who will serve as a mentor throughout the school year. The goal is for the students, currently in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood, to have guidance until they reach high school. The program started in October 2014 and is continuing to grow.

“I feel like we’re getting a chance to affect multiple kids in the neighborhood,” Wood said. “It’s been great for us. It’s been a great learning experience for us. I know the kids are really enjoying it. I know the families are really enjoy us being there. We’re all going through this together.”

Last year’s home run derby raised more than $100,000 and will play a big role in Pitch In’s summer program, which kicks off this year.

“Any time you can get fans out, get a chance to get out on the field and take some hacks, it’s a pretty special day,” Wood said.

For more information or to sign up, visit cubs.com/derby. Or visit wffpitchin.org for more information on the Pitch In program.

—Phil Barnes

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