Welcome! If this is your first log in to the new site and you were previously a member, please reset your password to get the same access and keep your account secure.
‘Not what you see on TV’: Chicago baseball players’ wives reject shallow portrayals
The Sis Team is always looking for great stories in the news to share with our Sisterhood. Shelbie Lynn Bostedt at RedEye Chicago recently wrote this fantastic article on our Sisters in Chicago and how they give back.
You know their last names: Thome, Robertson, Eaton, Wood, soon-to-be Bryant. But the women behind White Sox and Cubs players—in case there is some way you didn’t know—are much more than their marital status.
With TV shows such as E!’s “WAGs,” which explores the (largely lavish and exaggerated) lives of wives and girlfriends of pro athletes, making assumptions about the significant others of Sox and Cubs players would be easy, but it wouldn’t be right.
“[TV shows] go around and they find women that are more interested in being an actress or a model or something as opposed to just the everyday, normal women that 90 percent of us are,” said Brittany Wood, wife of Cubs pitcher Travis Wood. “Anybody that has met us at the field or guys’ events, everyone kind of knows most of these girls are not what you see on TV.”
A way to give back
For most of the Sox and Cubs’ significant others, being married or engaged to an athlete is less an excuse to spend outrageous amounts of money on a purse and more about seizing opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Wood, for instance, worked odd jobs throughout her husband’s time in the minor leagues “just to help pay the bills” until he got called up to the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.
“I knew immediately that as soon as we could and were in a spot where we were able, I’d make sure it was a priority for us to start giving back,” Wood said.
The two don’t have their own foundation but “like to throw their support in several different areas,” through the Cubs organization and the Saline County Safe Haven, a domestic violence shelter in the Arkansas county from which the couple hails.
‘So many people needed our help’
Erin Robertson, wife of Sox pitcher David Robertson, shared a similar experience. Robertson worked in public service after graduating from Bentley University in 2007, one year after her husband was drafted. After graduating, she worked for the attorney general of Massachusetts and then for the state of New Jersey while her then-boyfriend played in the minors before being called up to the New York Yankees.
The Robertsons did service work together, including volunteering their time to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which is devoted to researching the disease that claimed Robertson’s father’s life earlier this year, and other events through the Yankees. But with her daytime work hours and David’s game schedules conflicting, Erin Robertson decided to cultivate her public service in a different way.
“That lifestyle that was the opposite of real life. He was working at night, I was working during the day, and we never saw each other,” Robertson said. “Finally I decided, ‘You know what, we are fortunate enough, I can do [charity work] full time,’ so I left my job so I could pursue the nonprofit part.”
The two were working with various charities when tornadoes hit David’s hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2011. The two hopped on a flight from New York on David’s next off-day—”Those are few and far between in baseball,” Erin Robertson said.
“All of these places that we had known and loved were gone and unrecognizable,” she added. “We never went into this world thinking that natural disaster work is where we wanted to be, but so many people needed our help.”
The two eventually started an organization called High Socks for Hope to ensure that all the money donated to the tornado efforts would be put to good use. Now Erin Robertson serves as executive director of the organization, and her husband is chief executive officer.
While some with preconceived notions of what it means to be the wife of an athlete may see this as giving up a career for the sake of her husband’s success, for Robertson and other spouses, it’s a matter of doing more for others.
“We should continue doing this for as long as we can and as long as he has this platform,” she said.
Pursuing her passions
Jessica Delp, fiancee of Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, credits the team with affording her the chance to pursue her passions, even if they don’t manifest in a 9-to-5 way.
“As long as I can remember, community service and philanthropy work have been passions of mine,” said Delp, referring to her time working on homeless initiatives in high school and at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “This platform that Kris has just enables me to continue that work.”
Bryant proposed to Delp in December, but they have been together since their sophomore year of high school in Las Vegas. And while things haven’t changed much between the two of them, the public perception of their relationship has shifted post-engagement.
“There was a lot of misunderstanding about why exactly we were dating,” Delp said, speaking to casual assumptions that can be attached to those who date pro athletes. “But now that we’re engaged, people seem to respect me a little bit more and validate our relationship.”
Teaming up with other Cubs wives, Delp and Wood work on coordinating the annual Race to Wrigley, which this year raised $350,000 for Cubs Charities. The two also create Players’ Favorite Things Baskets, which are put up for charitable auction, a tradition shared by the Sox.
Always making time for kids
Katie Eaton, wife of Sox outfielder Adam Eaton, also crafts Favorite Things baskets. If you had told her seven years ago that she and Adam would be where they are today—part of a major-league team in Chicago—she wouldn’t have believed it.
“We pinch ourselves all the time,” she said. “How did we end up here?”
Adam Eaton was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, during Katie’s sophomore year at Miami University in Ohio. She earned her degree in health sciences and promotions and went to work for Verizon Wireless in Michigan before intermittently coaching softball, the sport she played at the collegiate level.
She and her husband both work with the Dragonfly Foundation, a Chicago- and Cincinnati-based charity that benefits children with cancer, and Adam participates in a bartending event each year to support the organization.
“Through my [softball] team we were always giving back to the community in Miami,” she said. “This was something that was important to me before I even met Adam.”
Eaton recently gave birth to a son, Brayden, so this season has been more hectic than usual in the Eaton household. Still, Katie and Adam take time to go on hospital visits and outreach trips in the community.
“Those visits really resonate with both of us; we leave there and just can’t believe the strength of some of these kids,” Katie Eaton said. “But they only have smiles on their faces [despite their health challenges]. It’s selfishly rewarding for us because we just get so much out of it, too.”
Andrea Thome, wife of former Sox slugger Jim Thome, remembers her time as a baseball player’s wife fondly. She attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio and became a broadcast news anchor in that state before she married Jim in 1998; he was playing for the Cleveland Indians at the time. When his seasons started conflicting with broadcast “sweeps,” Thome paused her career to start a family, enacting what she called a “temporary retirement.”
After her husband, a Peoria native, came to the Sox in 2006, the retirement became semi-permanent, with Andrea Thome focusing instead on her work with Children’s Home + Aid, an organization she and her husband discovered through the Sox.
“We had always leaned toward organizations that worked with children or women in crisis,” Andrea Thome said.
Since her husband’s 2012 retirement, life has settled down a bit, allowing Andrea to write a novel. “Walland,” which was released in August, is a love story set in the Tennessee town that bears that name, where Thome has vacationed. She remains a member of the Woman’s Board for Children’s Home + Aid, and the Thomes coordinate a benefit dinner for the Peoria Children’s Hospital.
“They’ve always been so supportive of Jim,” Thome said of the Sox, who still buy a table at the hospital benefit dinner every year. “They’re such a generous and philanthropic organization, truly.”
This article was originally posted on RedEye Chicago.