Former All-Star Curtis Granderson to be honored by Detroit Tigers for mentoring work

Detroit Free Press

Curtis Granderson made his return to Detroit this weekend, and for a very special reason.

The three-time All-Star will be honored on Sunday with the Willie Horton African American Legacy Award as part of the Detroit Tigers‘ 21st annual Negro Leagues Weekend. The award was created in 2009 “to honor African Americans who have strengthened the legacy of baseball in the African American community and have contributed to the rich history of the Tigers.”

Drafted by the Tigers with the third overall pick in the 2002 MLB draft, Granderson worked his way up through the minors to become one of the catalysts for the 2006 season that ended with the organization’s first World Series appearance in 22 years. Granderson spent his first six major league seasons with the Tigers, hitting .272. In 2007, he became one of only four players in MLB history to record 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in one season.

Granderson played 10 more seasons after he was traded to the Yankees in a three-team deal after the 2009 season, and was a lifetime .260 hitter with 344 career home runs and 937 RBIs.

After his retirement, Granderson has worked in collaboration with former Tiger Edwin Jackson and C.C. Sabathia to create the Players Alliance, a nonprofit organization with the mission to “address baseball’s systemic barriers to equity & inclusion by creating pathways to opportunities on and off the field for an undeniable pipeline of black talent.”

The work he does includes providing mentoring for young players just beginning their journey.

“I remember being in those shoes and just being so excited and if I would have had a chance to ask certain questions to players I looked up to, what would I have wanted to ask, what would I have wanted to know that I didn’t know,” Granderson said. “Even for parents, a lot of parents that are getting a chance to go through something they’ve never gone through before, so education for them and then understanding some of the challenges that this new generation is facing now.”

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Coming back to Detroit allows Granderson the chance to catch up with Horton, a longtime fixture in the Tigers organization, and get to hear stories from his life and career.

“The things that he would just always talk about were just so cool,” Granderson said. “Whether it was on the field, off the field, playing the game, the mental side, his stories from the Civil Rights movement. You just are always hearing something exciting whenever you’re in his presence, so I’m so glad I got a chance to see him once already and then hopefully I get a chance to spend a little bit more time with him tomorrow.”

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Something that has since changed from Granderson’s time in Detroit is the center field wall. Once 422 feet from home plate, the wall in center at Comerica Park was moved in 10 feet, creating less room than in the days when Granderson patrolled the middle of the outfield.

He was in attendance on Friday night and saw Padres star Juan Soto smash two home runs to center, something he said never would have happened when he was here.

Granderson will be at Comerica Park on Sunday morning to participate in a fan Q&A, beginning at 10:45 a.m. at the Big Cat Court. He will be honored in a pregame ceremony on field before the 12:05 p.m. first pitch.

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