Mets Outfielder Curtis Granderson traded in his blue Yankee pinstripes for the Amazin’ Mets blue and orange. He’s not the first baseball player to play for both New York City’s baseball teams. John Olerud, Al Leiter, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry are among the 121 MLB players who have played for both teams.
Now in his 11th season in Major League Baseball, Granderson’s played for the Detroit Tigers and both New York teams. He has a keen sense of what it means to be an African American playing professional baseball. His Grand Kids foundation provides baseball equipment to New York City and Chicago to encourage minorities to play baseball. He earnestly carries that responsibility. He wears knee socks to pay homage to Jackie Robinson and Negro leaguers who also sported that look.
“I do that not just in support of him but of all the Negro League players who opened the doors for people of African American decent, Cuban decent, Puerto Rican Dominican—everybody throughout the world,” Granderson told The Source.
Granderson caught up with The Source at Lids in Manhattan. New Era Hats ran their Home of the Authentic celebration in Times Square that commemorated the hat brand’s 20 year reign as the official on-field cap of Major League Baseball. Granderson joins former Yankee teammate CC Sabathia, Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, Texas Rangers’ Prince Fielder, Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz and others featured in a variety of online, print and in-store ads throughout the entire 2014 season.
Check out the campaign:
Always candid, Granderson opened up about his respect for Jackie Robinson, NYC and even rocking New Era stickers on his baseball caps.
Here’s THE SCOOP:
The Source: Curtis, you’ve played for the Yankees and now you’re a Met. Yankees play in the Bronx and the Mets are in Queens. Did you move to be closer to work?
Curtis Granderson: (Laughing) You know I wanted to stay in the same spot in the city. I got accustomed to the restaurants, the shopping and all of that good stuff. So after a long and extended process, I got a chance to stay in the same area. So I actually know where I need to go to and from both stadiums when we play the subway series. I know how to get to my old stadium, Yankee Stadium and of course my new stadium, Citi Field.
The Source: You struggled in your Mets debut against the Washington Nationals going 0-5 with three strikeouts. In all fairness, it’s still early in the season, what do you need to do to adjust?
Curtis Granderson: The big thing is that we have a long season ahead of us—we have 161 games. It’s unlike any other sport where you can talk about, ‘hey tomorrow is a new day.’ Tomorrow really is a new day. There’s a lot of baseball left to play and as the season warms up, the Mets will continue to warm up along with it. We’ve got a lot of optimism, a lot of youth and a lot of energy—and a high ceiling we’re trying to attain the best that we can.
The Source: New Era is celebrating 20 years as the official on-field cap of MLB. You and CC Sabathia are the face in New York. On the subject of hats, do you remember your VERY FIRST baseball cap?
Curtis Granderson: I’m not sure of my first ever. But I remember the one I liked the most. It was this wool Lakers hat. That was when everyone was wearing the tag out versus the sticker on it now. Why we wore that tag out? I still don’t know but we wore the tag out because that’s what we saw everyone doing and now everyone has the sticker on so I think it’s just transitioned as we moved forward.
The Source: Do you ever get caught rocking the sticker on your hat?
Curtis Granderson: (Laughing) I don’t! I take the stickers off myself. I just haven’t fallen into that unless it’s on there accidentally. So I actually have an interesting story: I used to take the sticker that was underneath the bill of the hat and when we had our first minor league player identification cards, I would put that sticker underneath my minor league card. Whenever you show your ID, everybody turns it around. When they saw that hologram, they’d say: ‘Oh this is real!‘ So they’d let me into the restaurants, let me into the club, all these different things like that all because of the stickers that were underneath the baseball cap.
The Source: Ken Griffey Jr. made rocking of a baseball cap ceremonious. How much did he play a part in your on field style?
Curtis Granderson: Man, I remember him taking batting practice with his hat backwards. That was the first time I had seen anyone do that and it was on TV! I’d see it all the time. I just wanted to get back in the batters box, turn my hat around and do the exact same thing. Then all of a sudden, the evolution of the fitted came out. That’s what everyone wanted—nobody wanted the snapback anymore! You wanted to get that fitted hat, you knew your size. So everybody went into that store trying to get that two for one—buy one get one half off. So I was going in the store with somebody because that was the only way I was getting me a hat! Now it’s amazing how everybody is coming back around to snapbacks and the fishnet backs are back in. But obviously the fitted hat is still a classic.
The Source: Shifting back to the field—Yankee Stadium or Citi Field?
Curtis Granderson: Both of them have their pros and cons. At Citi Field I hope to get a chance to get a couple more doubles and triples under my belt. Both of them don’t have as much foul territory, which is one thing I don’t like as an offensive point. If you get that ball past the first base, you can banker around that corner for a little bit and give it a little time to get to second or third base.
The Source: Next week, Major League Baseball will honor Jackie Robinson with Jackie Robinson Day. He broke the color barrier in baseball. All players will wear his number 42on that day to honor him. What does Jackie Robinson mean to you?
Curtis Granderson: Jackie Robinson is the reason why I get a chance to play this game and the reason why I wear my high socks up. One of the things people don’t realize is that the Negro Leagues was a home for everyone that is non-white who wanted to play. Guys got their careers in baseball started there and then got an opportunity to play in Major League Baseball because of Jackie Robinson. I honor him every year. This year we’re going to be in Arizona on Jackie Robinson Day and I always look forward to wearing the number 42 on the back of my jersey because of him.
The Source: As an African American, what do you think can be done to increase the diversity of baseball?
Curtis Granderson: I think that it’s a mix of different things. One, you gotta continue to market it. As we talked about earlier, the excitement that CC and I both had when we saw guys like Ken Griffey Jr, Derek Jeter on television, on print ads, having video games—those are the things that we wanted to do and we saw them and we all did it. It worked in the NBA, everybody wanted to be like Mike! It needs to be similar in baseball. We’ve got to continue to show how fun it is. A baseball hat is worn by everybody, let’s show the reason why it’s not just worn there but on the field. There’s different things that can be done to promote it and highlight it and make it available for everybody. It’s a very expensive sport and as we know as the economy starts to go up and down, we need to find a way to make it affordable for everybody whether they’re black, white, Hispanic or other.