By Dana Getz
Former Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Kerry Wood returned to Wrigley Field last weekend—this time to play a different kind of ball. On August 10 Wood and his wife Sarah premiered the first annual Woody’s Wiffle Ball Classic, inviting celebrities, retired pros and corporate ringers to battle it out in an all-day wiffle ball tournament. On the batting list were Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”), Matthew Perry (“Friends”) and Jenny McCarthy (“Love in the Wild”), among others.
The day kicked off with the Corporate Wiffle Ball Tournament, featuring 16 corporate teams in their quest to become champion. The Home Run Derby followed later in the evening, serving as an opener for the Wiffle for a Diffle celebrity game. All proceeds from the event benefitted the Wood Family Foundation, a two-year-old non-profit organization started by Kerry and his wife to provide resources and opportunities for Chicago-area children.
“It’s a great organization. They’re all about giving school supplies and resources to kids who may not have the means to have their own resources,” said Dexter’s Aimee Garcia. “They really kind of empower the community, and I feel like education breaks the cycle of poverty. This foundation puts their time and money where their cause is.”
The idea came to Wood over a dinner outing with friends, one of whom had a wiffle ball field that he’d built to host neighborhood tournaments.
“We had a bowling event that we had done for about eight years and kind of thought it was running its course, so we were already thinking of something new and fresh and something that no one else has done,” Wood said. “When the wiffle ball conversation came up, I thought, ‘Oh, no one’s done that, let’s see about putting on a tournament.’”
With Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts only a phone call away, getting the green light to take over the field for a day was fairly painless, and celebrities were eager to hop on board.
“I grew up a Cubs fan, I’ve been able to throw out the first pitch here, but this is better than that. I mean, to be able to help out the kids and things like that, and what the Wood Family Foundation’s done—it’s just awesome to be a part of, and it’s an honor more than anything,” said American Idol winner Lee Dewise, who sang the national anthem.
Though many celebrities undoubtedly had their game faces on—“I’m counting on the fact that celebrities will hopefully not be very athletic,” Garcia said—it was clear the event was strictly fun and games.
“All these actors and actresses and personalities—this is their first time getting to play in front of a few thousand people, so I’m just excited to see these guys have fun,” Wood said. “They have serious jobs in the business, the whole nine-yards, but you see them out here and they’re acting like eight year olds, so it’s awesome.”
Photos by Kenny Kim