New York Mets Center Fielder Curtis Granderson will return to the line-up Friday. His injury was minor; not very news worthy.
Granderson’s Thursday though, was extremely news worthy. Curtis returned to his native Chicago to open and christen Curtis Granderson Stadium, at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The new home to UIC Flames baseball is the largest alumni gift in UIC history; but more importantly the largest donation by any professional athlete to his alma mater (according to Sports Illustrated via the school’s Sports Information Department). That’s any school; anywhere. UIC will be just one tenant of the venue; Chicago youth community baseball will make good use of the facility.
Curtis put up $5 million of his own money into the $10 million cost of Curtis Granderson Stadium.
“The timing of this date could not have been any more coincidental, two days after Jackie Robinson Day with Major League Baseball,” Granderson said.
“With all the great things that happened with Jackie Robinson that opened up the doors, broke down the color barriers for not only myself and other African-Americans, but also for people of all races and all cultures to get a chance to play this game.”
Granderson, a three time MLB All-Star on the field, is a philanthropy All-Star off the field. He won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award in 2009 for his on-field performance and contributions in the community.
Granderson was also voted one of the friendliest players in the Major Leagues, according to a poll conducted by Sports Illustrated. Curtis Granderson is one of a few players in MLB who wears his socks high, which he does to honor players from the Negro leagues.
After addressing the media in the stadium’s suite, he addressed the crowd on the field and threw out the first ball. The event was such a big deal that National Civil Rights Leader and former Presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson showed up to it.
Curtis Granderson Stadium (capacity 1,784) has about as nice a view as you will find anywhere in college baseball. From home plate you can see the Chicago skyline prominently; with the Willis Tower featured in centerfield.
“I have been coaching for 30-plus years and I have dealt with a lot of kids and Curtis is the most unique young man that I have ever been around,” said UIC Head Coach Mike Dee. “From his Grand Kids Foundation to his donation, to this whole project, he is unbelievably committed to kids. I could not be more proud of him; he is a first class individual.”
Grand Kids has raised money to benefit the educations of inner-city children around the country.When Granderson endorsed Nike, Inc., Louisville Slugger and Rawlings, he asked them to donate money to his foundation or equipment to inner-city baseball programs rather than pay him.
Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable.
Here’s some video from the event today.
Curtis Granderson addressing the crowd prior to the start of the game:
Curtis Granderson addressing the media an hour before the game:
“When given the opportunity to give back and help those that have helped me, this was one of the first ways we thought about doing it. We had done a few things in previous years and this won’t be the last. We just want to continue to help out the next student-athlete that comes through UIC and also help spread to the community that UIC is here. This is going to be, hands down, one of the top facilities in all of baseball.”
Curtis Granderson and Rev. Jesse Jackson emerging onto the field from the UIC dugout:
Curtis Granderson throwing out the first ball before the game:
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a frequent guest on national talk radio. Banks is a former contributor to NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, who’s been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks