WBEZ | Curtis Granderson http://www.wbez.org/tags/curtis-granderson Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Yankee star gives back to University of Illinois Chicago, Chicago youth http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-02/yankee-star-gives-back-university-illinois-chicago-chicago-youth <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_11curtis_granderson-uic.jpg" style="float: right; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="Yankee star and Chicago native Curtis Granderson gives back to his college-UIC (UIC Athletics)" />It seems like we are always inundated with negative stories in sports and when there is a positive story it gets minimized. What New York Yankee Curtis Granderson is doing for his alma mater, <a href="http://www.uicflames.com/sports/m-basebl/spec-rel/020613aaa.html">the University of Illinois Chicago</a>, should be front page news and lead sportscasts.</div><p>Last summer <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-08/chicago-yankee-new-yorks-center-field-102007">I wrote about the Chicago native </a>and discovered what a thoughtful, giving young man he is. Now he is giving more. Last week when the Flames retired Curtis&#39; jersey, he revealed a plan to renovate the school&#39;s baseball field and facilities.</p><p>Granderson will use millions of his own dollars to update many facets of the stadium and fields, including the press box, stands, pitching mound and more. It is not just the school he will be aiding. It will be the community as a whole that will benefit from this generous gift.&nbsp; This two year plan to upgrade the facilities will include allowing various youth teams in the city the opportunity to use the stadium. Chicago Public Schools, the Park District, the RBI Reviving Baseball in Inner cities program (RBI), Urban Youth Academy, the White Sox and Cubs youth baseball teams can play there free of charge.</p><p>Flames head baseball coach Mike Dee says they will have almost 3,000 boys and girls involved with games. Long term, there will be a lot to plan, especially accommodating hundreds a games, including CPS games that will start this spring. Each baseball and softball team will have an opportunity to schedule a game. Not only will these leagues be able to play games and practices, the college will also have coaching and officiating clinics for the various organizations. Additionally, Granderson believes the safety of the neighborhood will help insulate the children, especially since a police station is next to the field.</p><p>Helping the youth is the underlying reason for this generosity. It may help revitalize a sport that has suffered a decline in popularity. Baseball is not the most popular sport for young athletes, particularly inner city youth. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-06/looking-jackie-robinson-deciphering-baseballs-shocking-dearth-black">The lack of African-Americans in baseball</a> is alarming. In fact, there is a profound documentary in the works, <em>Bases Empty</em>, that is delving into the genesis of the problem and the future of the game.&nbsp;</p><p>Besides giving back and taking care of his school, Granderson will help a community and a sport that has a proud tradition that needs to be re-kindled.</p><p>This project also says plenty about the ties Granderson has with the University of Illinois-Chicago and Flames Head Baseball Coach Mike Dee. That relationship began when Dee recruited Granderson at 17 years old, through his three years playing for the Flames and when he was drafted in his junior year by the Detroit Tigers. Now playing for the Yankees, Dee will go unannounced to see his famous centerfielder when Curtis comes to Chicago to play at US Cellular Field. When Mike talks to his Curtis it is rarely about baseball.</p><p>&ldquo;He (Curtis) has a real deep sense of social responsibility,&rdquo; Dee said. &ldquo;His mom and dad did a phenomenal job with him growing up, he is exceptionally humble and a strong sense of wanting giving back to the community.&rdquo;</p><p>The college experience is something that both Dee and Granderson want to entice the young players who will play or practice at Curtis Granderson Stadium.</p><p>It occurred to Dee that both he and Curtis never &ldquo;wondered <em>if</em> they were going to college, but <em>where,</em>&rdquo; but that is not the case with most of the youth they are trying to reach. They hope as kids spend time in the college environment it will open their eyes&nbsp; to the possibilities of continuing their education. Many will not play the sport long term, however, it could be for some a way to get<span style="font-weight: bold;"> a</span> scholarship.</p><p>There could be more Curtis Grandersons &mdash; the man, not necessarily the player &mdash; stepping on this new baseball field. At least that is a goal worth reaching for in my book.</p><p>Follow Cheryl on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout">@CRayeStout</a> and Facebook <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame">Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</a></p></p> Mon, 11 Feb 2013 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-02/yankee-star-gives-back-university-illinois-chicago-chicago-youth A Chicago Yankee in New York's center field http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-08/chicago-yankee-new-yorks-center-field-102007 <p><p>Growing up a baseball fan in Chicago there were two things you had to detest: the St. Louis Cardinals if you were a Cub fan and the Yankees if you were <em>any</em> sort of baseball fan. There are many players on those teams you can respect, admire or really envy. But between all their wins and the intense rivalry over the years, it&#39;s so much easier to just &mdash; dare I say it &mdash; hate them. The exception for me is if they were with the Cubs or the White Sox. Then they are given an exemption.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Curtis%20Granderson%20catches%20a%20fly%20ball%20at%20U.S.%20Cellular..jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 300px; float: right; " title="Curtis Granderson catches a fly ball at U.S. Cellular Field. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)" />But now I have to come up with a new category of exceptions after spending time with Yankee centerfielder&nbsp;Curtis Granderson. This three-time All-Star was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and was dealt to New York three years ago. And, he is a true Chicagoan: He went to high school at Thornton Fractional South and played baseball at the University of Illinois-Chicago.</p><p>Ever since he joined the majors, the word is that Granderson is one of the friendliest players around. It&#39;s true, and I found out first hand. Here he is, a Yankee from Chicago, and everyone wants to talk with him &mdash;&nbsp;radio talk shows, TV stations, writers, former coaches and staff &mdash; and somehow he has time for everyone. There is no rolling of the eyes or the feeling that he is &quot;too good&quot; to spend time with people.</p><p>Both of Granderson&#39;s parents are retired educators from Chicago. Growing up he had a strict criteria in order to play sports from his mom and dad. &ldquo;If I was involved in sports and my grades were good, I didn&rsquo;t have to get a job,&rdquo; said Curtis. &ldquo;They wanted me to be well-rounded.&rdquo; Because of his skills as a baseball player and a basketball player he was able to get a scholarship to UIC. The school isn&#39;t known as a baseball powerhouse but they did play other renowned schools. &ldquo;We played against my fellow [Yankee] teammate Nick Swisher&rsquo;s Ohio State and other big schools,&rdquo; said Granderson. &ldquo;All the scouts that were watching those games got to watch me and my teammates.&rdquo;</p><p>Since he was still a junior in college when he was drafted by the Tigers, he asked Detroit to let him forego Instructional League until he finished the semester. Granderson was able to complete his degree with a double major in business and marketing management before joining Detroit&#39;s minor league team. Having parents in education wasn&rsquo;t the only reason he wanted to complete his degree. &quot;I enjoyed school,&quot; he said. &quot;I had that sense of accomplishment when I studied hard and got good grades.&rdquo; One thing about Curtis: When you bring up his parents&rsquo; line of work, he is very proud to add that his sister teaches English at Jackson State University in Mississippi.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Curtis%20Granderson%20dealt%20to%20the%20Yankees%20three%20years%20ago.%20Seth%20Wenig.jpg" style="height: 454px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="Curtis Granderson being dealt to the Yankees three years ago. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)" />As a Tiger, Granderson made a name for himself with his tremendous play in centerfield and at the plate. In 2006 he went to the World Series but came up empty; then, three years ago, he was dealt to the New York Yankees. Since then his odds of going back to the Series has increased. The glare of the spotlight has not been too intense in the biggest stage in baseball. Granderson credited playing in a World Series, All-Star games and the World Baseball Classic to good preparation. &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t a shock, surprise or something foreign to me when I came to New York,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>I had to ask him about dealing with the New York media, as he did have a &ldquo;moment&rdquo; with them. Granderson was asked about the conditions of the field that was chewed up from non-baseball activities. &ldquo;It looks a lot worse than it actually is,&rdquo; he told the press, yet the headline read &quot;Curtis Granderson bashes outfield.&quot;&nbsp;Even though the quote didn&rsquo;t say it and the story didn&rsquo;t imply it, he didn&rsquo;t get angry &mdash; Granderson knew the writer wasn&rsquo;t responsible for the headline.</p><p>To add to the notion that he is one of the most amicable players around, Granderson travels the world as an ambassador for Major League Baseball. He also has written a book for kids,&nbsp;<em>All you can be: Dream it, Draw it, Become it.&nbsp;</em>Curtis is also involved with several charitable organizations.</p><p>Just in case you are wondering &mdash; White Sox or Cub fan? Neither! Curtis explained: &ldquo;I was neutral when it came to both Chicago teams. I like them do well for the city.&rdquo; He loved the Atlanta Braves since they were a successful team in the &lsquo;90s that he watched on TBS.</p><p>Granderson is a successful player on <em>the </em>most successful team in baseball. I will just have to put him in the category of terrific player and person &mdash;&nbsp;on a team I still can&rsquo;t like.</p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-08/chicago-yankee-new-yorks-center-field-102007