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MESA, Ariz. _ There was no vision from above, no snap-of-the-finger conversion.
Kerry Wood's transformation from an easygoing party guy to a serious professional was gradual. But if Wood had to trace his makeover to a single day, he'd pick July 6, 2000, when he met the love of his life, Sarah Pates.
Wood went with a group of friends that night, including former teammate Mark Grace, to the Cactus Bar & Grill in Chicago. It wasn't long before Wood noticed Pates serving drinks. He wanted to get to know her better, but ...
"I've never approached somebody and tried to hook up," he explained. "I have no game, nothing. If they don't come up to me, I'm out of luck."
Luckily for Wood, one of his friends told Pates that she had an admirer. She responded by testing whether Wood could handle his liquor.
"She kept feeding me drinks, Crowns and 7s," he recalled. "I'm trying to tell her, `I have to work tomorrow.' After about 10 doubles, I stumbled out of there."
The next afternoon Wood took the mound against the White Sox. Wood might have been bleary-eyed, but only …