Granderson represents MLB in Europe

Granderson represents MLB in Europe

Curtis Granderson wanted to travel the world this offseason. He just got to see a different continent than he was planning on visiting.

When the Tigers reached the postseason, Granderson was planning on being part of the All-Star team that Major League Baseball sends to Japan each November for the Japan All-Star Series against the best of that country. The chance of a prolonged, rain-soaked World Series washed out those plans.

Instead, Major League Baseball sent him on an altogether different mission. Yet even though being part of MLB's ambassador program in Europe doesn't involve him playing in a single game, it might be as well-suited for him as the spacious center field at Comerica Park.

As the story in Tuesday's Times of London noted, Granderson isn't the well-known superstar with frightening numbers. But he's an educated, well-spoken young man with an outgoing personality and a way to relate to most anyone who runs into him. It's turned out to be quite a working vacation.

"First," he wrote in an e-mail Tuesday from Amsterdam, "MLB is sending me here to try and expand baseball here to Europe and influence the kids that are in the baseball academies that we want to see succeed, and become not only some of the best players in their respective countries but in the world. I'm also looking to use it as a way to go to some places I've never had a chance to go, and that I may not have been able to otherwise."

Granderson is not much of a world traveler. He had never been to Europe, and his international journeys mainly have involved winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Yet he might be the ideal candidate for MLB to send on such a trip. As a 25-year-old without family obligations, his main task this offseason was going to be househunting. As the son of parents heavily involved in education, he had a thirst to experience different cultures.

Hopping across Europe was his opportunity.

"He is a unique, unique individual," his agent, Matt Brown, said. "One, he happens to be a pretty special baseball player. But also, everyone knows he's bright. He's very well educated. He's a family guy. His parents are both educators. But without question, everyone -- whether it's media, former coaches, kids, my wife, my other players -- everyone who meets him says the same exact thing."

"He was so excited. When they asked him, he jumped out of his chair."

The trip began in London, where Granderson was the representative at a release party unveiling Majestic Athletic's 2007 line of MLB products. The accompanying media there ranged from The Times, Britain's newspaper of record, to Hip Hop Connection, which advertises itself as the world's original rap magazine.

"I had never seen anything like that before," he said of the show. "That reminded me of watching an award show red carpet."

From there, Granderson was off to Amsterdam, where he spent Tuesday as an instructor at a clinic for elite Dutch youth players at Sportpark Ookmeer, home of the Amsterdam Pirates. On Wednesday, he headed to Tierrentia, Italy, for another clinic at the Italian National Olympic Training Centre for national academy members.

Both academies in the Netherlands and Italy are sponsored by MLB. The Italian version serves as home for MLB's European Baseball Academy, bringing in the best from that continent as well as Africa for three weeks each summer. Eight participants have signed contracts with Major League clubs in the last two years.

That marked the end of his official business. The rest of the week will give him a chance to be a tourist along with Joe Lacy, one of his longtime friends. He already took a tour of London with one of Britain's all-sports channels, and he was hoping to tour Rome and Florence.

"The food in all the spots is another thing I'm looking forward to," he said. "I had fish and chips and Indian food in London. Here in Amsterdam, I had Dutch food along with Indonesian food. Of course, I'm going to look forward to getting some true Italian food as well."

Once he returns to the states next week, he'll have some home cooking waiting for him.

"I get back in time for Thanksgiving," he said, "which is perfect."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.