Blue Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson used his downtime before Friday’s evening game against the White Sox to return to his roots and give back to a community that helped him prosper.
Surrounded by roughly 300 children, aged 6 to 13, a smile never left Granderson’s face.
“I enjoy doing this,” he said.
Granderson hosted a New Balance youth fitness event at the ballpark named in his honor at the University of Illinois – Chicago. His goal was to inspire Chicagoland youth to get active.
The three-time All-Star participated in several activities with the kids like “Gaga Ball” and shuttle sprints. And when he was eliminated from games, Granderson still engaged with the participants, cheering them on and giving them advice.
“[We’re] showing the importance of being active and showing how easy it is to do it with their friends, family and peers,” Granderson said.
Granderson, a Blue Island, Illinois, native, is a familiar face around the UIC campus. During the offseason, he lives right around the block from Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium.
“Chicago’s a great place,” said Granderson, who played three seasons at UIC before going pro and joining the minor leagues. “This is home for me. So anytime I get a chance to come back and do stuff here [which] helped shaped me to the individual that I am.”
Granderson is arguably the best to ever don a Flames baseball uniform. His No. 28 jersey is retired.
A decade after Granderson got his degree from UIC, he decided to give back. Granderson donated a whopping $5 million to UIC’s athletic department to build a new baseball field and indoor sports complex in 2013. It was the largest one-time donation to a university by an athlete ever.
“It’s always good [to comeback home] and give back,” he said. “I’m always around here doing something … Chicago’s one of the best places in the world for me.”