Name: Curtis Granderson
Date of Birth: 3/16/81
Height: 6’0 Weight: 185
Bats: L Throws: R
Team: Detroit Tigers (Spent 2004 With Erie Seawolves AA)
Back in 2001 when you were first choosing a summer league to play in, why did you pick the Northwoods League over other leagues like the CICL (Central Illinois Collegiate League) or the Cape Cod League?
Well, at the time I actually didn’t know anything about the league but my coaches had made some recommendations and tried to place me there. I was fine with it because it gave me a chance to go somewhere I had never been and with the schedule it was a great chance to play a lot of games in a short amount of time and see if my body could handle it.
What did you think of your experience?
Overall I think it is the closest thing you can get to the Minors. The bus travel, playing every day, day in and day out, eating on the road, taking care of yourself, the promotions and the crowds. The feel is all there. Also, being close to the fans, especially on the party decks around the league where the fans are ragging on you. You have to learn to handle that mentally and keep your mind for the next play. It’s a great experience.
Was the NWL the only summer collegiate league you played in?
Yeah. Well, after my first year of school I played in a league in Chicago, close to home with guys from my school and Purdue and Northwestern. Some of the older guys had minor league experience others were guys that had graduated already, it was more of an amateur team with guys my age and guys that were up to 30 or 35, and I was only 19.
What do you remember most about Mankato?
I remember coming in and having really no clue what to expect. I knew we were close to Minneapolis, but I was sort of worried about what we were going to do outside of baseball. Luckily, we had some great host families and the team really bonded well off the field. The families would let us have groups of guys over so we could hang out and have fun. I also remember playing with guys from UCLA, Baylor, and top-notch schools and saying to myself I can play with these guys. I got a chance to travel to more places I had never been: northern Minnesota and northern Iowa . Plus, I made some friends outside of baseball that I sill talk to.
When you made your MLB debut on September 14, 2004, was that the most nervous you have ever been on a baseball field?
To tell you the truth, I was more nervous when I was warming up on the field before the game then when the game started. I remember taking drills and I couldn’t even catch a fly ball. My feet felt really heavy, I couldn’t get a read on a ball off the bat, and after 3 balls I was breathing really heavy. Everything seemed to be moving at 200 mph, and then once the game started it dropped to like 100 mph.
Along the same lines, did you fall victim to any sort of hazing when you were called up?
I actually think that they forgot, but I think that if I get up there next year it might be twice as bad. There was just so much going on with a make up date we had to play, and traveling and stuff that I think they just forgot. I did get my meal money taken away by some of the veterans, they said it happens to all the rookies, but they eventually gave it back a little later.
We all know Comerica Park is big, but really how big is it?
I’ve dubbed it as "Don’t Give Up Field” because if you can keep running for a ball, chances are you will probably get to make a play on it. I mean balls that are absolutely crushed and would be out of most parks barely make it to the track there. It may say that center is 420 feet but I think the deepest part of the park is like 436. It just gets so deep and stays that way for so long out there. I think that Baseball is a little worried about the depth of it, especially since it’s hosting the All Star game next year. I mean you don’t want the winner of the home run derby to only have 3 home runs.
What advise would you give to anyone that wants to try and make it in the Bigs?
For the college guys get out and play somewhere away from home. It’s the only way to learn. I mean when these GM and scouts take a chance on you they draft you because you have the physical ability, but you need to prove you have the mental part too. You know, can you handle a switch in environments and playing everyday? And when you get to the big leagues there may be guys that don’t speak your language and you need to prove you can play with that diversity. You have to ask yourself can I handle this and call these guys my second family? Just prepare yourself for everything.
Who was your baseball idol when you were growing up?
I don’t think I had one in particular, but Ken Griffey Jr. comes to mind and so does Bobby Smith, back when I was playing shortstop. I remember looking up to the guys when I was on the sandlot fields saying ok this at bat I’m gonna be Ken Griffey Jr. A lot of the time, it was the guys that did the things to make themselves stand out that I looked up to, it was the guys making the highlight reels day in and day out.
Where would you say your sweet spot is?
Well this year in Erie we had a saying "Hunt the Fastball” Ya know, what better pitch to go after than something you can sort of time and that doesn’t move all that much. I like to extend my hands cuz I feel I get better plate coverage and I have more strength away, so I would say my ideal pitch would be a fastball middle to middle away.
As a 2nd round pick in 2002, who was the first person you called after hearing your name?
Well, the real important people in my life were all there with me and I was trying to listen on the internet but it was so bogged down there would be nothing and then when I would refresh the page there would be like 20 names already posted so I just shut it off and then my agent called. But the first person I actually called I would say must have been one of my good friends, maybe Jason who I have known since the first grade.
We’ve heard that you would like to return to school and get your masters degree in Educational Admininstration, why is that so important to you?
Well both my parents are educators and so is my half sister as well. Baseball and school has always been the formula for me and I have been able to succeed at it. I would go back now, but with scheduling I would end up leaving right in the middle of a semester and it’s tough to do that. I know that baseball isn’t a given and it could end at any time for me. I don’t want to be done and then have to struggle. I can remember being in school and having 2 papers to do and a game the next day but I would give them all 100% and that’s just the way it works with me.
What’s in your CD player right now?
At home, I would have to say ahh, ahh, I think it would be the new Mos Def CD.
So are you big into Rap and Hip Hop then?
Not just that, but I love music of all types. Jazz, Blues, Acid Jazz I like everything
Looking back, you have been selected to an All Star team basically every year since high school including the Northwoods League, the New York Penn League and most recently the Eastern League. To what to you attribute that continued success?
Well I think it comes from starting off at an early age and making teams then. You get a confidence about yourself and know that you can play at that level, even if for a little bit your not. I started slow at Lakeland but still made the All-Star team because I knew the level I was capable of playing at and had the confidence to get through the slump. The same thing happened this year in Erie.
Speaking of the NWL All Star game, in 2001 you were selected to the All Star team that squared off against Team USA and eventually beat them 1-0 in 10 innings, handing Team USA their first shutout in the Continental US. What was that game like?
Well, a few weeks before the game I had actually bruised and chipped a bone in my hand so I really couldn’t play. I remember taking batting practice or tying to and missing a ball and the pain that came with that, so the only thing I could do in the game was pinch run, and I did that and got a stolen base.
But the game was unreal. It was some of the top talent in all of baseball on the same field. We treated it like an All-Star game and threw a different pitcher every inning so their hitters couldn’t get a good read but their guy, I think he was from Clemson, threw like 8 or 9 scoreless innings before they went the pen and we were able to get the win
From those two teams combined, only 1 other player made his MLB debut before your (Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers, and only because of a contractual agreement.) How does that make you feel?
I’m still trying to grasp that I guess. Once this season is actually over I can take a look back and see what it all really means. I mean, I got a small taste of something only a small percentage of people in the world can say they’ve had. It really gives me the incentive to work hard and get back there to really call that home .
Do you expect to be on the Tigers 25 man roster after spring training this year?
You know I really don’t expect to be at all. There are a lot of guys ahead of me that have earned there spots like Higginson, Rondel White, Craig Monroe and then Alex Sanchez this year, they all stepped up. I think I might start possibly at AAA Toledo, but it may be Erie again as well. I don’t think there is any point in putting me at a level where I’m not going to play. So wherever I can play is where I will be happy.