It’s the city so nice, he played for it twice.
Through stints with both New York baseball clubs, Curtis Granderson learned exactly what makes followers from the five boroughs and Long Island so fanatical about their beloved teams.
“There’s a real sense of history. A sense that fans are carrying a legacy that started with parents and grandparents,” said the outfielder, who is currently in the final season of a four-year contract with the New York Mets. “Plus it’s such a large city, there are so many historical stories to tell.”
Joining the Yankees via a trade in 2010 after six successful seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Granderson came to the metropolitan area with a reputation for an affable personality and a positive relationship with the press—but more importantly, a strong charitable streak that only grew when he arrived in the Big Apple.
Granderson founded his organization, the Grand Kids Foundation in his hometown of Chicago to aid in positive youth development with education, physical fitness and nutrition—providing tools and resources for educational and societal advancement.
“When I was traded to New York, it gave me the opportunity to expand the foundation,” he said, adding that he’s delved into youth baseball while in New York and also expanded in-class outreach. “We’ve been able to ask, ‘what is education?’ We’ve found that it’s not just going to class, learning something and then going home. It’s about having proper nutrition so they can focus. On top of that, they need to stay in shape. If you’re lethargic and out of shape, it’s even more difficult to learn and focus in the classroom.”
Education is more than merely a passing interest for Granderson—it’s always been a significant aspect of his life, as both of his parents are educators and his sister is a teacher at the university level. Aside from clearly influencing how he conducts his life off the field, his academic upbringing translated to the approach he has taken ever since he first picked up a baseball glove.
“I always had some room to improve,” said Granderson, recalling his days both pre- and post-draft. “How do I take what I have and prove people wrong? And that’s where the learning process comes from. I remember my parents would talk about, ‘how do we teach these kids chemistry or how do we get them to fragment a sentence?’ The answer was always, ‘we have to start here, slowly practice and ultimately get to the desired result.’ I think being around them growing up and seeing that but not realizing what was going on, that has put me at this point right now.”
Granderson’s tristate trip around the bases came to be after six strong seasons with the Tigers, which saw the outfielder reach rarefied air in 2007 with at least 20 stolen bases, 20 home runs, 20 triples and 20 doubles. He was only the third player in Major League Baseball history to reach that milestone—the first since Willie Mays in 1957.
“I was just playing and I had a lot of things go my way,” Granderson recalled of the achievement, which Philadelphia Phillies infielder Jimmie Rollins also accomplished later that same season. “A lot of it was just placement and luck.”
Granderson’s career was built on much more than simply “things falling into place.” However, New York fans definitely lucked out to have the chance to experience Granderson’s gracious persona on and off the field for close to a decade.
For Granderson, the feeling is mutual.
“The intense passion among fans is something that is so much different [in New York],” he said. “When you talk about passion and intensity, that’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever seen. That part is going to be something that I’ll never forget.”