From a Tiger to a Yankee, 31-year-old Curtis Granderson can say he’s accomplished a hefty load in his professional baseball career and in his personal life. Even though his original plan was to play professional basketball, his talent with the bat had other plans for him.
While playing baseball in High School in his hometown of Illinois, he batted a .369 average which quickly got him recognized by plenty of college baseball programs but opted to attend the University of Illinois-Chicago. Selected in the third round of the 2002 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers, Granderson put his college career to the side for the time being to focus on his athletic career. Eventually moving up through the farm system, the Center Fielder made his debut in the Major League’s on September 2004. He ultimately ended up completing his degree in business administration and business marketing via online courses.
In his five years with the Tigers (2004-2009), he began exemplifying his true talent early on. In August of 2007 he followed the footsteps of past Tiger Charlie Gehringer, and became the second player in the team’s club history to in a single season have at least 30 doubles, 15 triples, 15 home runs, and ten stolen bases. One month later and Curtis Granderson became only the sixth player to become part of the 20-20-20 club in baseball, a group reserved for players who have 20 doubles, 20 triples, and 20 home runs in one season. This feat didn’t come easy, because in order for a player to reach those 20 triples, he has to have bolting speed–a quality Granderson has shown with ease. In his last season with the Detroit Tigers he was voted on to his first MLB All-Star appearance, an appearance in which he ended up getting the game-winning hit, a triple, at the top of the 8th inning.
Since his move to Yankees Stadium in 2010 through a trade that send Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Tigers, the lefty Chicago-native has homered 94 times. Now with the pinstripe boys, he’s earned the nickname around the clubhouse of “Grandy”. In his years with the Tigers, Granderson was known for having difficulty batting against left-handed pitching but when he teamed up with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, those numbers have thus improved. The center field took the initiative to ask Long for help, and the numbers showed a quick improvement. Before Long, Granderson was hitting .239 for the season, but in the 12-game span after the duo began tweaking his batting techniques, Granderson was batting .282 (11 for 39). In 2009, his average against lefty pitching was .183, in 2010–.234, and in 2011–.272, so the effort in perfecting his swing is showing.
Curtis Granderson put on a spectacle throughout his 2011 season where he was in the the race for first place in home run totals in the Major Leagues against the dangerous Jose Bautista. He ended his season being two shy away from the Toronto champ who had 43 homers overall. This however only made him more popular with the fans; they were finally seeing the power numbers that this Yankee is capable of. Because of all of the numbers Granderson has been putting up in his baseball career, he is now considered a five-tool player, which only greats like Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Barry Bonds have had the privilege of being called. A five-tool player surmounts in hitting for average and power, has tremendous speed and base running skills, and shows exemplary fielding and throwing abilities.
One of the major things that makes Curtis Granderson stick out from the rest of many professional players, is the time and effort he spends off the field contributing to the sport of baseball. For the past couple of years, Granderson has been an ambassador Major League Baseball International, which promotes the sport to countries outside of the Unites States. In 2006, he began involving himself with the Major League baseball Players Association and has taken part in labor contracts to make sure that nothing similar to the NBA lockout in 2011 occurs in baseball. The foundation he founded in 2007 to help benefit the education system of inner-city children across the country, the Grand Kids Foundation, has done so much for the community that it has even been noticed by and has teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama in the past. In fact, his foundation means so much to him that when he grabbed endorsements from big-name companies like Nike and Louisville Slugger, he refused to receive a paycheck for himself and instead asked for the money to be donated to his charity. If that doesn’t scream “humble”, then I don’t know what does.
Curtis Granderson has become known to the world of sports and to the fans as a great dedicated player, as well as one of the nicest. Not to rub it in, but this grandiose center field even landed one of the top five spots in a poll by ESPN that ranked the “nicest players in Major League Baseball”. With the amount of work he does on the field to perfect his abilities and the amount of work he does off the field to better the community, Curtis Granderson is sure to be a great topic of conversation when baseball is brought up. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig even once wrote to him, “There are so many fine young men playing Major League baseball today, but I can think of no one who is better suited to represent our national pastime than you.”