BY JOE RINI
Whether he was inside or outside the white lines of the playing field on Saturday July 5, it was easy to see why the Mets signed outfielder Curtis Granderson this past winter.
After taking batting practice, the 33-year old Lansing, Illinois native walked outside white lines to greet the fans standing behind the batting cage to graciously sign autographs with a characteristic big C, pose for pictures, and even offered suggestions to a fan asking for Chicago restaurant recommendations. When he returned to the playing lines shortly thereafter, Granderson slugged a third inning run scoring double off the leftfield wall against Colby Lewis of the Texas Rangers. The Rockland County Times spoke to Granderson prior to Saturday’s game between the Mets and Rangers, a 5-3 victory for the team from the Lone Star State.
After swapping Yankee pinstripes for the orange and blue when he signed a four-year deal with the Mets this past offseason, Granderson started slowly in April, even hearing some boos from the fans in Flushing. However, the three-time All-Star has surged these past two months, raising his average over 100 points and leading the Mets with 14 home runs.
When asked about his April struggles and how he turned his season around, Granderson cited the long baseball season, stayed patient with himself, and said, “It’s baseball being baseball.” His improvement didn’t come from any mechanical changes, but “staying ready to hit.” As for the fans who did boo during his struggles, Granderson shrugged it off and said, “It’s part of the
game… I was a fan, too.” Even during his struggles, Granderson said a lot of fans were cheering and, “I am going to focus on the good.”
If there are players bemoaning the dimensions of Citi Field, Granderson isn’t one of them. Recalling his days as a Detroit Tiger, Granderson pointed out that the cavernous “Comerica (Field) was bigger,” than Citi Field. With the same calm that helped him recover from a slow April, Granderson said all fields are “unique” and have their “pros and cons.” This slugger who has hit 231 home runs in his career said he never tries to hit home runs but tries to “drive the ball” because balls do carry at Citi Field.
When asked about the differences between playing for the crosstown rivals Mets and Yankees, Granderson cited the Mets as being a younger team but otherwise he felt the challenges each team faces are similar. As for being a veteran on a young team, Grandeson mentioned the importance of “going about your business…leading by example.” A similar theme emerged when asked about his former teammate Derek Jeter, who Granderson complimented by saying, “He went about his business the same way whether people watched him or not.”
Granderson has been active in numerous community service endeavors benefitting young people and in recognizing the sacrifices and promoting the legacy of Negro League veterans who “paved the way” for players like him. He also helped fund the building of a new baseball stadium for his college alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago, which was named in his honor this spring. Granderson cited UIC’s baseball coach Mike Dee as a big influence in helping him reach the major leagues. Granderson recalled Dee being analytical and reminding his players to “do your preparations…don’t think too much…and have fun.”
The Mets have opened the current home-stand with four wins in five games and second baseman Daniel Murphy was selected to his first All-Star game, while the Mets franchise won its 4,000th game on Tuesday with an 8-3 victory over first place Atlanta. Starting pitcher Jon Niese was placed on the 15 day disabled list over the weekend with shoulder problems but is expected to return to the rotation after the All-Star break next week. The Mets enter play on Wednesday in fourth place with a record of 41-49 and conclude the home-stand this weekend with three games against the Miami Marlins.