Curtis “The Grandyman” Granderson spent 16 seasons playing Major League Baseball. Now he’s passing down those years of experience to the next generation of players and inspiring them to pursue college.
Granderson is the founder of Chicago Baseball and Educational Academy. He runs it at his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The organization runs a variety of camps, clinics and tournaments all year long, giving access to kids across Chicago aged 8 to 18.
“Everyone talks about how segregated this city is, and baseball and sports is a good neutralizer to bring people together,” Granderson said.
The three-time MLB All-Star said the program’s mission is to empower youth by playing hard and dreaming big.
“When I was playing baseball, I was one of a handful of players with a college degree,” Granderson said. “So I knew the importance of a college education and giving back. I didn’t know it was called giving back at the time, I would just watch my parents do it.”
UIC baseball player James Harris is one of the coaches in the organization.
“It’s really just about giving back for me,” Harris said. “It’s always fun to hang out with kids like this. They are eager to learn.”
The college senior started playing when he was a kid.
“It’s definitely one of the big dreams for me, making it to the league and telling my mom she doesn’t have to work anymore,” Harris said.
For Granderson, one way to get to the big leagues is the power of education. Currently, less than 7% of Major League Baseball players are Black.
“The number of African American ball players in the majors went from 15% to where it is right now, to 7%, and I say all that because this past year at the major baseball draft 80% of the players drafted were from college,” Granderson said. “So if we are going to draft players from college, we need to get more players into college. We have to get more players of color into college.”
For some kids, the academy is the first time they’ve stepped foot on a college campus — an experience Granderson said inspires kids to become student athletes.
“Now I’m in a position where I have the ability to help other people fulfill their dreams,” Granderson said, “and it may not be (playing) at the major league level. It may be becoming a scout, an umpire, being the first to go to college, being the first to graduate college.”