By Ken Reed

As a blanket of cold temperatures covers a big part of the country, it’s fun to read about our warm-weather sport, baseball. Moreover, it warms the heart to read about a baseball player who’s giving back and making a positive difference in the lives of children.

Michael Powell had an outstanding feature about the New York Mets’ Curtis Grandson in the New York Times a few days back. Granderson donated $5 million to his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), to build a baseball complex that includes Little League fields with artificial turf and light towers, as well as a baseball stadium used by the college team and local youth programs. Dozens of African-American youngsters jam the fields in the summer. The baseball complex provides a nice oasis for the youngsters from the turbulent, gang-ridden neighborhoods near UIC.

“We wanted to build a place where these kids could play and get a wider view of life,” Granderson says. “Then we take them on university tours and get a conversation going that they might not have.”

Granderson has won MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award for his outstanding community service and charitable work. His Grand Kids Foundation puts 100% of donations into youth programs. There is no paid staff. He’s also a spokesman for the White House’s efforts to get kids to exercise, lose weight and drink more water, instead of sugary drinks.

Granderson, an African-American, grew up in a mixed-race suburb not too far from the fields he built for UIC and the surrounding neighborhoods. He was a multi-sport star and went to UIC to play baseball and get a degree. When the Detroit Tigers drafted him after his junior year, he signed. But he continued to work on his degree. He wears his socks high to the knee to honor Jackie Robinson and the role he played in integrating baseball. He also uses the fashion statement to pay homage to the stars of the Negro leagues who never made it to Major League Baseball.

Granderson attributes his philanthropic impulses to the example his parents set.

“I watched and absorbed without realizing what it was,” says Granderson. “Slowly I became a part of it.”

Here’s hoping his fellow major leaguers are watching and absorbing Granderson’s off-field efforts.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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