CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Cub Kerry Wood was only 17 years old when he was drafted out of high school.
“High school ball changed the course of my life,” Wood said.
He remembers what it felt like to pitch at his hometown baseball stadium.
“I remember like it was yesterday,” Wood said. “I felt that this was what I wanted to do. It’s the feeling of being in a field like this with people watching you, playing under the lights, it makes you feel like this is what the big leaguers do.”
Ten years in the making, the Kerry Wood Cubs Field now shines bright on Chicago’s North Side. Now, he says public high school ballplayers will be able to feel the same as he did.
“What a beautiful stadium where we will be able to watch these children play here,” he said. “Now that we have this amazing stadium in our city, I have no doubt, hundreds if not thousands of our Chicago youth will be able to feel that same way, like a big leaguer.”
The $5 million, 1,250-seat stadium is located near Lane Tech High School and DeVry University. Kerry Wood Cubs Field is the first diamond on the North Side to meet Illinois High School Association standards.
Wood says when he learned about the lack of facilities in the city, he knew he had to help.
“I didn’t understand. How is there not baseball in the city, how do you not have this type of somewhere for these kids?” Wood said. “It was absolutely pivotal to me.”
His Wood Family Foundation chipped in to jump start the program along with CPS and the Park District, which officially owns and operates the site. High school teams from across the city will play at the field.
“The Kerry Wood Cubs Field will further strengthen the Chicago Park District’s efforts to ensure that America’s favorite past time continues to grow in Chicago’s Parks,” Park District Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly said.
Ground was broken in October 2012, but contaminated soil put the construction on hold. The project was able to continue with a little help from then Governor Pat Quinn to clean up the soil.
“This change is a little part of Chicago and it’s a great example of the community coming together and public and private partnership to make things better,” said Candace Goodwin, Chicago metro president for Devry University.
“A lot of people were involved in making this happen,” Wood said.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts says it’s been a long time coming, but Wood’s commitment to Chicago made all the difference.
“We’ve seen a lot of players come through the city of Chicago,” Ricketts said. “We’ve seen a lot of players retire as a Chicago Cubs, but I haven’t seen anyone give back like the Woods have.”
Wood says it’s humbling to see his name up on the marquee.
“It’s legacy kinda,” he said. “My kids will be able to drive down the street and see the stadium for a long time.”
And that legacy, he says, also includes giving young athletes a state of the art facility and a chance to realize their dreams like he did.
“It’s just another step in their path to being great and the opportunity they’ll have here will be life changing,” he said. “It was life changing for me.”
For more information, visit woodfamilyfoundation.org.