My baseball career has taken me from Detroit to New York City, but in my heart, I’ll always be a Chicago guy.
I grew up outside Chicago, where my parents were both public-school teachers. I went to the University of Illinois at Chicago and still live just blocks from campus in the offseason. In 2012, we developed Curtis Granderson Stadium at UIC, a $10 million initiative that provides a safe place for Chicago’s youth to play the game I love. Over the holidays, while my Grand Kids Foundation hosted our annual Grand Giving initiative — a month-long campaign to end hunger — I went on a tour of some of the places in the city that made me who I am.
Here’s a look at my hometown of Chicago.
As a family, we give thanks before every meal. It all started here … Little League Baseball. I always appreciate that my parents have “print photos” from every moment of my youth. Not much has changed at my former middle school. My biggest supporters from the very beginning. My former classmate is now the head of the class. One of my greatest achievements is the development of the Grand Kids Foundation and our ability to support youth from my hometown, and beyond. I credit much of my success to the lessons learned within these walls. Much has changed since my days as a student at T.F. South. Like every other kid in the 90s, I wanted to be Michael Jordan. The field at T.F. South High School looks a lot different than it did when I played here. Had a chance to stop by Roots Pizza. Chicago deep dish or New York style? I think I should stick to baseball … Meet our Grand Kids from the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Kids Cafe program. Every year, during Grand Giving, I invite our Grand Kids participants to help me grocery shop at Mariano’s. Half the battle is nutritional education. It’s important to educate our nation’s youth about the importance of making healthy decisions. Our Grand Kids got to “check out to help out” at Mariano’s as part of our Grand Giving initiative to end hunger. It’s surreal to have a stadium with my name on it, but this place still feels the same way it did over a decade ago. It feels good to be home. Our Grand Kids Ambassadors, including the UIC Baseball team, revving up for our annual indoor youth baseball clinic. Baseball is still just as fun today as it was when I first started. Our only goal during our Grand Kids youth clinics: “Don’t think. Have fun.” Angels in the infield. We’re teaching more than baseball. We’re teaching kids that hard work and dedication will never fail you. What most people don’t realize is that more often than not, these kids teach us more than we teach them. After every activity, we bring it in. Who’s ready to have some fun? My favorite part of every Grand Kids camp is the Q&A, when I open the floor for the kids to ask me any question they want.