Parents paved path for Granderson's Clemente Award
Mets outfielder honored for charitable, community work
By Paul Hagen
CHICAGO -- Growing up, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson absorbed lessons from his parents, Curtis Sr. and Mary, that he didn't even realized he was learning.
"I remember seeing my mom and dad inviting people over to have food, have drinks," he recalled Friday after the announcement that he had won the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award. "Taking clothes that I had outgrown and passing them on to students that were my size that needed stuff I had outgrown. Giving my teammates when they didn't have rides to and from.
"At that time, I didn't think of it as, 'This is their way of giving back,' but that's what they had been doing. They had been doing it my whole life. I got a chance to witness it and experience it early on in my lifetime."
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced before Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night at Wrigley Field that the 13-year veteran was being given the award that annually recognizes the player who best represents baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions both on and off the field.
Also at the news conference were the Clemente family, including MLB Goodwill Ambassador Vera Clemente -- widow of the late Pirates star who died in a plane crash during a mission to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua -- and Granderson's parents.
"Curtis Granderson is an outstanding ambassador for our game and a positive role model for kids," said Manfred, who termed this the sport's most prestigious award. "His commitment to the many communities that have touched his life and the great impact of these efforts makes him a very deserving recipient of our most prestigious award.
"On behalf of Major League Baseball and all of our clubs, I congratulate Curtis and thank him and all of our nominees this year for everything they do to make a difference in the lives of others."
Granderson was selected from a list of 30 nominees, one from each team, by a panel that included Manfred and Vera Clemente. Additionally, fans were able to cast ballots on social media for the first time.
The Mets star is a three-time All-Star and won the 2011 American League Silver Slugger Award while playing for the Yankees, but he has been just as impressive in his charitable endeavors.
Granderson made a personal donation of $5 million toward the construction of a state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor baseball complex at the University of Illinois at Chicago, his alma mater, that is also used as an Urban Youth Academy. Curtis Granderson Stadium opened in 2014, and it provides nearly 10,000 inner-city youth with a year-round safe environment. The complex is also home to his semi-annual Grand Kids Foundation's Youth Clinics.
Granderson holds clinics year-round in Chicago, New York and Florida, which not only teach kids baseball but lessons about hard work, dedication and how to be a leader. He brings groups of children to Mets games at Citi Field and has helped raise money for New York's City Harvest, United Neighborhood Houses, the USO of Metropolitan New York and the YMCA.
Granderson also has actively supported the Mets' commitment to the military, acted as the official MLB spokesperson for anti-obesity and "Drink Up" water initiatives, and he was a player member of the MLB On-Field Diversity Task Force.
Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.