The Wood Family Foundation has been hosting Woody’s Winter Warmup since 2012. The charity event has been held at Harry Caray’s at both Navy Pier and Watertower Place in its seven years.
Kerry Wood has been presenting this event on the first night of the Cubs Convention and boasts a literal all-star lineup of current and former Cubs, as well as local and national celebrities.
My friend, Dave, and I have been attending the last four years. Dave has been to all seven events. Our goal is to race to Harry Caray’s immediately after the Opening Ceremonies. A quick change of clothes (the event is casual chic, though they have allowed Cubs apparel to be worn the past two years) and a quick cab ride gets us near the front of the line. After a 45 minute wait for the doors to open, we beeline to the bar.
The race to the bar is more about claiming our spot to be up close and personal with the celebrity bartenders. The cast of volunteer bartenders serve up drinks in exchange for tips that benefit charity.
The night began a bit slow with Harry Caray’s bartenders serving up the first drinks, but not long after former Chicago Bear Israel Idonije was behind the bar.
Two years ago, I and many others, mistakenly called Idonije, Jason Heyward, following Heyward’s acquisition. We took a selfie and later Idonije found my tweet and commented I was about the 100th person to make the same mistake.
Then a Hall of Famer made his entrance. Ryno! Ryne Sandberg spent some time behind the bar and took several photos. A friend from my hometown celebrated a birthday on Thursday. She’s a die-hard Cubs fan and loves Sandberg. So I had Ryno send a message.
A rookie celebrity bartender joined Idonije. It was Danielle from American Pickers. Two separate groups next to me began talking about Rock Island (close to Leclaire, Iowa where the show is based out of) and I shared my hometown was a mere 30 minutes from the Quad Cities. It was the QC corner, as we were all from or currently living in the Quad Cities, so we took a group shot with Danielle.
And Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard served up drinks.
One of my favorite celebrities from these events came in. John Cusack.
Cusack went to work and quickly denied any photo opportunities. Later, he did begin taking photos with patrons and spent quite a bit of time behind the bar. Bonnie Hunt joined him and they worked well together.
A little later the big hitters arrived. Literally and figuratively as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo showed up.
For every Bud Light I ordered I tipped a few bucks, but I throw out 10’s and 20’s for photo opportunities. Fortunately, Bryant was right in front of us and a Kris Bryant selfie is very well the best $20 I have ever spent. And it’s for charity. Bonus!
I missed out on getting a picture with Rizzo last year, so another $20 and the Bryzzo selfie was complete.
Ian Happ was with Bryant and Rizzo, also.
Bryant and Rizzo spent at least 30 minutes and were great at bartending and interacting with fans.
Last year, I had a David Ross selfie, but it was more of a wide group shot. So, another tip to Rossy and a much cleaner, compact photo came out.
Ross was joined by Addison Russell and Jason Heyward (the real J-Hey, not Israel Idonije).
Toward the end of the night we wandered around to meet up with others. Kerry Wood does a great job being out with the guests, so I was able to get a picture with him for the first time.
And we met up with Stewart from Club 400 for a group shot.
This event makes my Cubs Convention every year, and this year’s certainly topped all others. A great time with great people.