A three-time MLB All-Star, Curtis Granderson had a tremendous professional baseball career, all of which got started on the local fields of Lynwood (Ill.) Little League in the early 90s. During Spring Training in March 2019, Little League® International had the opportunity to catch up with the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner to hear his thoughts about youth baseball and his Little League experience.
Little League: How do you think Little League made you who you are today?
Curtis Granderson: Everything started with learning failure, teamwork, and leadership early through Little League. Understanding that you can get knocked down and bounce back is important as you progress through your baseball career and through life. You’re going to continue to fail, but you’re going to get another opportunity to go out there and do something you’ve never done before in your life, and that’s the great thing about this game.
LL: How important is Little League and other community-based activities in a world filled with elite tournaments?
CG: The big thing that everyone needs to understand when getting your children started is that the game has to be fun. A lot of that has been thrown out the window because we want to get our kids in the best situation possible, but the best situation possible SHOULD be the most fun situation. We shouldn’t have to pay for these situations and travel all over when those options are available in your own backyard. Little League should be fun. Youth athletics should be fun. The way that it can continue to be fun is to play at home in your community with the kids you go to school with.
LL: Why is it so important for you to give back to youth programs and the community?
CG: It’s very important to give back. A lot of people forget that you’re in the situation that you’re in now because somebody helped you to get to that point. I had some great coaches, teachers, mentors, and teammates throughout my career that helped me get to where I am now, and now I’m in a situation where I can help some other people along their way.
LL: Throughout your entire career, you’ve remained dedicated to supporting the Lynwood community. Why has that been such a priority in your life?
CG: I always try to do what I can in the community that helped raise me. Some of the things that we’ve done is that we’ve gone back and make sure those fields I played on are still safe and nice to play on, gone back to different schools to talk about what baseball did for me in this community, and continue introduce some new ideas for parents and leagues to get more involved in today’s busy world. My goal is to make sure that everyone in the community knows that Little League is an option.
LL: What did it mean to you to see the interaction between Little Leaguers and MLB players during the MLB Little League Classic?
CG: Some of my biggest memories as a youth was watching the Little League World Series, and I still look forward to watching it every year. The fact that those kids who make it to that big stage get to now be on the field with the MLB players is incredible. One of the biggest things that I enjoyed was seeing the shaking of hands after the MLB Little League Classic game. It happens in every other sport, except for baseball, so to see the Major Leaguers do it after that game was awesome.
LL: What does it mean to you to get kids interested in baseball and softball at a young age?
CG: Some of the first big league games I got to attend was because Little League days. Very often, that becomes the first introduction to the game for kids and that’s something we can’t forget about. As we try to keep the game relevant, we have to make sure that it’s introduced and known it’s an option for kids growing up.