Curtis Granderson, CBEA aim to change narrative through partnership with Baseball for All

Granderson and his organization, Chicago Baseball and Educational Academy, teamed up with Baseball For All to provide a training camp for girls ages 10-18 at UIC.

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The first baseball team Curtis Granderson suited up for was the Lynwood Sabres.

He was 6, and the green T-shirts they wore didn’t come with pants, so Granderson wore his blue jeans.

Mary Las was his coach.

It wasn’t typical for a woman to coach a Little League team back then, but it felt natural to Granderson and his teammates. She made them rotate positions, teaching them early to be utility players. She emphasized being a good teammate, but most important for Granderson, Las taught her players to have fun playing baseball.

Granderson credits that lesson for his lengthy MLB career. To this day, he writes, “Don’t think, have fun” under his baseball cap.

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Curtis Granderson’s first baseball team was the Lynwood Sabres.

provided photo

“She’s the one that got me in [baseball] and got the love of the game going,” Granderson said. “I have no idea if we won games or if we lost games, but I know I had a lot of fun out there, and it’s all in part to Ms. Las.”

Three decades later, while concluding his 16th major-league season, Granderson and his organization, Chicago Baseball and Educational Academy, teamed up with Baseball For All to provide a training camp for girls ages 10-18.

The camp consisted of six weekly, two-hour sessions at Curtis Granderson Stadium at UIC. Each week, the camp brought a different professional guest coach. The fourth week featured Granderson, who played at UIC, and Diamondbacks pitcher T.J. McFarland.

“Whenever you think of baseball, you always think of which guys are going to get a chance to play this game,” Granderson said. “It’s been really neat to partner with Baseball For All because we’re trying to change that narrative.”

“Having all-girls baseball camps provides female players a space where they can play, learn, make mistakes and just be baseball players without feeling like they have anything to prove,” said Liz Benn, a pitcher in the New York Metro Baseball League and a coordinator for Major League Baseball. “It helps them build a community and make friends who can potentially serve as a support system as they progress in baseball.”

The camp concluded Nov. 5, but Granderson continues to have an impact on communities throughout the year with his foundations.

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Provided Photo/Margo Grogan

Granderson’s work through CBEA, along with his foundation, Grand Kids, which helps children across the country, is the reason he’s a four-time Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award recipient. He won in 2009, ’16, ’18 and ’19.

He was also the recipient of the Rawlings Heart of Gold Award on Nov. 9 for the “greatness” he displayed off the field this year.

Granderson founded CBEA in 2016, and he knew Chicago was where he wanted to establish the organization. No matter where his career would take him, Chicago would always be home, and helping the youth here was important to him.

In the last three years, CBEA has hosted over 10,000 kids of all races and genders to grow in the game and beyond. Using UIC’s facilities, which Granderson helped fund with a $5 million donation, has allowed CBEA to host programs all year long.

CBEA’s partnership with Baseball For All happened after Granderson and his team took a look at the breakdown of whom his organization was reaching. Of those 10,000 kids CBEA was working with, a very small number was female. That didn’t sit right with Granderson.

“We wanted to take our small portion of girls and increase that,” Granderson said. “We’re hearing stories of girls playing, but they don’t have the place to play, they don’t have the opportunities to play. We want to give them those opportunities to play, just like all the boys in this city.”

In his career, Granderson has played for the Tigers, the organization that drafted him, the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Brewers and Marlins, for whom he played last season.

At 38, Granderson hasn’t spoken of retirement. In fact, he has said he’s interested in playing if the right opportunity presents itself.

He has no desire to be a manager or have any coaching role, for that matter. His future could include broadcasting. Granderson has enjoyed getting his feet wet with appearances on TBS’ postseason broadcasts.

One thing he’s certain about is that his future will be in Chicago.

“I never imagined playing this long, let alone having it end at some point,” Granderson said. “Now [the end] is closer than it ever has been. If this does end up being the end of it, I hope people remember how hard I played the game and how much fun I had playing the game.”

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