10/11/12 9:45 PM ET
Wood proud to attend groundbreaking of new field
By Vinnie Duber / MLB.com
Or at least he will when it's done being built.
Wood was one of scores of attendees at the groundbreaking of Kerry Wood Cubs Field on Thursday morning on the North Side of Chicago. The ceremony was held on the site of the future baseball complex at Clark Park near Lane Tech College Prep High School, which will be the first high school regulation field on the North Side.
The $5 million field, which Wood said should be finished sometime next year, is made possible by contributions from the Cubs, Chicago Cubs Charities, the Wood Family Foundation, the city of Chicago, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools and Turner Construction.
"For me, this is what my foundation is about: It's about giving back to the community for the Chicago kids," Wood said. "All age groups are going to be able to play."
Many kids who play baseball at Chicago high schools have to travel out to the suburbs to find fields that meet the regulations of the Illinois High School Association. Kerry Wood Cubs Field will serve not just Lane Tech's baseball team, but also those of numerous other area schools.
"There's not too many high school stadiums that kids get to utilize," Wood said. "It's a big stadium for the high schoolers to play on. They don't have to practice on a Little League field. We have Little League fields all over town, but there's no place for the bigger kids to go play. It's nice to have this stadium here for the high school kids and all ages all the way down. We're going to run clinics here. The city's going to use it in different areas, so it's going to be used quite a bit."
The former pitcher, who retired during this past season, said that he and his wife met with city representatives as far back as seven years ago in regards to this project.
"This conversation about this particular field started almost seven years ago, so it's a long time coming and it took a lot of work to get it done and we needed a lot of people and a lot of help from a lot of different people," Wood said. "But when they all came together, they saw the good that it was going to bring to the community, and we got it done. Today was a great day for everybody involved."
Once completed, the stadium will be owned and operated by the park district. High School teams from across the city will play at the field, which will host regular season and postseason games, and there will be seating for 1,100 spectators.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts emceed the event on a chilly, windy morning in Chicago that required everyone to wear their winter coats -- everyone except the dozens of Lane Tech baseball players on hand, who were outfitted in their jerseys. Those players will soon call Kerry Wood Cubs Field home, and Ricketts reminded them that a Cubs legend is among their alumni.
"Lane Tech is a good spot for us to put a field, not only because there's land and it's down the street from the park, but there was a great player named Phil Cavaretta that came from Lane Tech," Ricketts said, recalling the history of the 1945 National League MVP. "He was so good, he was drafted by the Cubs before he finished high school back in the 30s. He had a 20-year career with the Cubs, finishing with a batting average of .293. By providing a great facility here in the city, we hope to have the next generation of Phil Cavarettas coming through here."
One of the next Cavarettas might be current Lane Tech first baseman Walter Nolan-Cohn, who gave a rousing speech thanking everyone he could think of, from the Woods to the Ricketts to his high school teachers.
Nolan-Cohn embodied the predicament that city kids face, and he spoke with pride and a little bragging rights to his suburban comrades.
"The city may not have the facilities that the suburbs do, but I can guarantee you to everybody here today and everybody in the state of Illinois and the world that the city of Chicago has a talent level that is as good if not better than suburban teams," he said.
"And this field will help us prove it."
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.