Rather than use a plastic wiffle ball bat like everyone else who faced off against retired Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood Saturday during Woody’s Wiffle Ball Classic at Wrigley Field, former WWE Champion CM Punk briefly opted for a folding chair, not unlike the steel ones wrestlers use to knock out opponents. And why not? The point of the celebrity game was to entertain the fans watching from the bleachers while also raising money for the Wood Family Foundation.
Sure, it looked like Punk’s teammate, Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”), was taking the exhibition seriously, especially since he held on to his squad’s lineup sheet nearly the entire game and made another teammate run a lap, but he did so more for the amusement of those around him.
Also taking part in the festivities were Matthew Perry (“Friends”), Jenny McCarthy (“Love in the Wild”), Lee DeWyze (“American Idol”), Aimee Garcia (“Dexter”), Josh Charles (“The Good Wife”), George Wendt (“Cheers”), Joel Murray (“God Bless America”), Kevin Farley (“2gether”), Neil Flynn (“Scrubs”) and Finesse Mitchell (“Saturday Night Live”).
“When Bill Murray jumps on board and Matthew Perry jumps on board, that helps,” Wood said about the celeb lineup. “It also speaks volumes for what this stadium means to people, whether they live here or not.”
What was DeWyze’s reaction when he learned that the benefit — which replaced Wood’s annual Strike Zone Celebrity Bowling Tournament — would be a wiffle ball game this time around?
“Awesome,” said DeWyze, who sang the national anthem before the game and held onto the ball from his at-bat as a memento. “I grew up playing wiffle ball in the backyard a lot. To be able to do it here is awesome.”
The game gave Garcia a minuscule glimpse of what she can expect Monday, when she’s scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Cubs game at Wrigley Field. “I told Kerry Wood I’m mortified and really nervous, and he gave me some pointers,” Garcia said. Asked if she knows how “Dexter,” which is in its final season, will end, she responded: “No idea. I’ve tried to get it out of (star) Michael C. Hall multiple times (but) the man knows how to keep a secret. They’re so sneaky sometimes. They’ll film alternate endings or won’t put endings in the script, so we’re in the dark like everyone else.”
The Wood Family Foundation benefits childrens programs in the Chicago area and recently awarded incoming UIC freshman Gabriella Santoyo a full scholarship. Since retiring last year, Wood and his wife, Sarah, have dedicated much of their time to the heavily active foundation. But unlike many other retired athletes who let themselves go after their playing days are over, Wood has noticeably lost weight.
“It was the traveling,” Wood said of his heavier days. “Now there’s no more (hotel) mini-bars or eating at 11:30 p.m. when the game is over.”