ETB has a special treat for Detroit Tigers fans as we celebrate the team’s season-opener this afternoon against the visiting Kansas City Royals.
Curtis Granderson is the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter for the Tigers, who’ll sport an offense that should challenge a few all-time scoring records this season. He’s also one of the nicest guys in baseball. The son of two educators, he’s one of only a handful of major league players with a college degree. Curtis does indeed take academic achievement seriously: his Grand Kids Foundation charity is dedicated to spearheading educational initiatives for youths as well as bringing baseball back to inner cities across the country.
On the field, he’s one of the American League’s brightest rising stars. As the leadoff hitter in a revamped lineup that has added the potent bats of Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria, he figures to score a ton of runs this season in addition to his typically stellar production across the board. He’s also one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, and last season joined Willie Mays, Frank Schulte and Jimmy Rollins as the only players in MLB history to record at least 20 home runs, 20 steals, 20 triples and 20 doubles in a single season.
Granderson will start the season on the DL because of a broken finger suffered in spring training, but should be back on the field by mid-April. He recently took the time to sit down with ETB and answer question ranging from his desire to steal more bases, his blogging and future broadcast career, his entrance music, and more.
Empty the Bench: Everybody knows you’ve got some wheels—you stole 26 bases last year and only got caught once. Do you want to run more on the basepaths? Think you could be a 40 steal guy in the near future?
Curtis Granderson: I would love to run, and feel that the potential to steal 40 plus bases is a possibility. I’m still learning when to run, and how to run from our first base coach Andy Van Slyke, and have already learned a lot, but still have room to learn.
ETB: You struggled versus lefties last year, but I know you’ve been working on hitting left-handed pitching this offseason. What kinds of things can you do to prepare for lefties, and what can you change in your approach at the plate?
Curtis Granderson: I need to continue to face more lefties and continue to get repetitions against them and for the most part that’s the main thing I can do to get better hitting them. In the past, I have been able to hit lefties, but this past year, they figured me out. My approach has to be to go the other way against them like I have done in the past when I had success and continue to stay positive.
ETB: You had some of the best entrance music in baseball last year. You putting together a new set of tunes for 2008? Got anything in mind? What albums have you been listening to lately?
Curtis Granderson: As for my entrance music I’m going to most likely stay old school again. Old school never really can get old. New music I still need to grab the new Lupe Fiasco CD and add it to the collection, and see what new is coming out this spring.
ETB: You did some work with TBS covering the 2007 MLB Playoffs this year. Do you see yourself getting into broadcasting sometime down the road? What about it appeals to you?
Curtis Granderson: The broadcasting was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I would like to get into it after baseball is done (hopefully a long time from now). The things I really liked about it are that I was talking about guys I’ve either played with or against, and able to remember what happened which made it a little bit easier to be able to commentate along side with Frank Thomas and Cal Ripken. Remember, I also got to commentate next to John Kruk and Dusty Baker over at ESPN.
ETB: You weren’t on the All Star Game ballot in 2007 because of Sheff, but you will be this year. How important is to you to make the All-Star Game? Is that a big goal of yours?
Curtis Granderson: It never has been a goal of mine to make an All-Star team. I think that the All-Star vote is a great accomplishment, but when you look at it, you are really only rewarding a player for what they have done for just over a half of a season. My goals are the end of the year awards which cover the entire season (gold glove, silver slugger, players association all-outfield team, etc…) If I do happen to make an All-Star team, I will be extremely happy and I hear it’s a great experience, but I’ll have to leave and get right back to finishing up that second half.
Much more from Mr. Curtis Granderson after the jump…
ETB: What do you take more pride or satisfaction in: making a key defensive play in center field, or getting a clutch hit at the plate?
Curtis Granderson: The defensive play, because your defense can never slump. The clutch hit is always a difficult thing to do, and that pitcher is also trying to make a clutch pitch. So you are going to lose there more than you win. With the defensive one, even after you might have just lost at the plate, you still may have a chance for redemption.
ETB: Under the bill of your cap you have the words “Don’t Think, Have Fun.” What’s that about? What does it mean to you?
Curtis Granderson: The saying means pretty much that. Just remember you are playing a game, a game I’ve played since I was 6 years old. The game is supposed to be fun, and keep it that way. There is no need to try and over think the game or the situation, because if you are thinking then you aren’t playing. When we were younger and went out on the field to just play a pick up game, there was no strategy. You try to hit the ball and catch the ball, and had the most fun doing just that.
ETB: You recently held your 1st annual celebrity basketball game to benefit your charity foundation, Grand Kids. Can you tell us just a little bit about the foundation, and how was the game? Any highlights? Of all your Tiger teammates involved, who’s the best b-baller?
Curtis Granderson: The foundation is to show the importance of education. Trying to raise money to provide the best education possible for kids. Right now we are working with Detroit and Flint Public schools in trying to do this, and plan on branching out further in the years to come. As for the game, the highlight was that the Flint team cut a 20 point lead down to 3 with 10 seconds left, and had a chance to tie it up, but missed a long three. Nate Robertson was showing his range with the three, and Dontrelle Willis was showing his vertical by dunking during halftime.
ETB: How was your trip to Africa this summer, and what was most memorable? Have you had the opportunity to travel much abroad, and what are a few places on your wish list?
Curtis Granderson: The trip to Africa was great. I had a chance to take my father and one of my friends with me, and we had a really good time. We were able to see the sites, the beautiful mountains, and cities. We also went on a safari and were able to see a bunch of animals (lions, elephants, snakes, buffalo, rhino, etc…). he main purpose of the trip though was to help promote the game of baseball throughout the world. I was asked to do a very similar thing in Europe the year before, and have been very thankful that MLB International has chosen me to do so. As for my wish list, I’d love to head to South America, the western cities of Canada, Spain, Japan & China, and also Australia, so hopefully year after year, I can check some of those off.
ETB: After the moves made this summer by the Tigers, are you feeling any added pressure to perform?
Curtis Granderson: There’s always pressure on you to perform, our team and myself always look for ways to improve and go out there and try to win day in and day out. The additions that we made only increase that hunger to try and go out there and be the best
ETB: Are you planning to maintain your blog again during the season?
Curtis Granderson: I’m still deciding the best way to continue the blog this year. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed doing it. I just want to make sure I can keep it fresh, if we continue this season.