Since arriving like a whirlwind in 1998, Kerry Wood has been just one of a few Cubs players regarded as one of Chicago's very own. Upon setting the National League record for strikeouts in a single game, Wood became another face of hope for Chicago Cubs fans.
Though injuries have hindered Wood's career, he has always been a fan favorite at Wrigley Field. Perhaps many still linger in hope that Wood will one day have the Cy Young Award-winning season many have felt his abilities were capable of. Perhaps many Cubs fans hold affection for Wood as they would one of their own children, having watched the one-time phenom grow up in a Cubs uniform.
Whatever the case, Kerry Wood remains one of the all-time favorite Chicago Cubs.
Following the 2008 season, the Cubs were in a bit of bind. The emergence of current closer Carlos Marmol left Cubs general manager Jim Hendry with a difficult decision. Kerry Wood's contract had expired, and although Wood has enjoyed quite a bit of success as the Cubs' full-time closer that season, there was no denying Marmol was the closer of the future.
Consequently, Hendry decided not to offer a contract to Wood, and Wood was signed shortly after to be the closer of the Cleveland Indians.
Though Wood was respectable as a member of the Indians, recording 28 total saves in 2009 and part of 2010, Cleveland enjoyed little success as a team during Wood's tenure. Seeking to bolster their bullpen for a 2010 playoff run, the New York Yankees contacted the Indians about Wood. At the 2010 trading deadline, Wood was shipped to New York to help set up legendary closer Mariano Rivera.
As the Yankees quest for their 28th World Championship fell short, Wood was respectable, allowing just two runs in eight innings pitched. The Yankees, however, chose not to re-sign Wood for the 2011 season.
Having filed for free agency following the 2010 season, Kerry Wood was searching for a new team to play for. Though his career was winding down, Wood was still relatively young at 33 years and definitely had a lot to offer Major League ball clubs.
Destiny came calling for Wood, in the form of tragedy close to home.
On December 3, 2010, former Cubs legend and radio broadcaster Ron Santo passed away.
Santo's funeral in Chicago brought former and current Cubs out in droves. Among the likes of greats such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg, one of the men in attendance to pay his respects to Santo happened to be Kerry Wood.
Following the funeral, Wood struck up a conversation with Cubs GM Jim Hendry, and within days a deal was done to bring Kerry Wood back to Chicago. Always a fan of Wood, Santo must have been smiling down at the news of Wood's return.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the Texas native and longtime resident of Chicago. Fans celebrated the return of their prodigal son, and with little to root for entering the 2011 campaign, Cubs fans felt a little better about their team having Kerry Wood once again a member.
Thus far in 2011, the Chicago Cubs season has been nothing more than a learning experience for many. Marred with injuries, this Cubs season looks to bring nothing more than possible hope for next season. Decisions will come as to which Cubs will remain in 2012 and which Cubs may be dealt in order to possibly enhance the future.
Among those potentially finding themselves on the trading block is Kerry Wood.
Having spent the majority of his professional career in a Cubs uniform, questions must be asked whether Wood would enjoy the opportunity to leave the Cubs and join a contender.
It seems as if Wood has belonged in Chicago for as long as he's been a Major Leaguer. Since his arrival in 1998, Wood has always been embraced by Cubs faithful. Though Wood spent the last two seasons away from Chicago, his wife Sarah—a Chicago native—and son Justin remain in the Chicago area.
Simply stated, Chicago is home for Kerry Wood.
As the July 31 trading deadline grows closer, teams will undoubtedly reach out to the Cubs and inquire about Wood. The most likely scenario rumored has Wood being traded to the Texas Rangers. Being that Rangers partial-owner Nolan Ryan is Wood's longtime idol, Wood would have a difficult time turning down such a grand opportunity.
Regardless of what the future holds for Kerry Wood, one thing is certain: Kerry Wood will always be welcome in Chicago. He's one of the few Cubs who can claim to have been a part of four playoff appearances for the Cubs—and the only one that has done so in over a century. He's enjoyed phenomenal success and tremendous heartbreak.
Much like one of his predecessors, Ron Santo, Wood has been a longtime face of the Cubs organization, and has formed an incredible bond with Cubs fans.
Whether or not Kerry Wood decides to leave Chicago for a chance at a World Series title remains to be seen. But regardless of the outcome, Wood can always call Chicago "home."
Santo, himself, would agree.