Curtis Granderson Talks Youth Baseball, Beating the Cubs at Kids’ Camp – DNAinfo

Curtis Granderson, a Chicago area native, held a baseball clinic at his alma mater University of Illinois-Chicago Saturday. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]

NEAR WEST SIDE — About 200 kids surrounded Chicago-area native and major league ballplayer Curtis Granderson at his youth camp Saturday and bombarded the Mets outfielder with questions.

One of the most pressing questions: “How could you beat the Cubs?”

(Granderson’s Mets beat the Cubs in this year’s National League Championship Series, ending the Cubs season.)

“Because I don’t play for the Cubs,” said Granderson, laughing. His response was met with a chorus of “boos” from the energetic kids.

A smile never left his face as Granderson interacted with the kids at his “Grand Kids Youth Clinic,” held Saturday at University of Illinois-Chicago, Granderson’s alma mater, where he also donated half the funds to build the stadium that carries his name.

Granderson, who grew up in South Suburban Blue Island, holds the camp at least once a year at UIC as a means to help spark an interest in baseball amongst inner city kids.

For Granderson, interacting with the kids is just as important as teaching the game’s fundamentals, he said.

Andrew Smith, 10, fields grounders at Curtis Granderson’s baseball camp Saturday. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]

“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “We don’t do anything too complicated, just make sure they have fun and maybe be able to bring back something to their teams.”

The over 200 kids at Saturday’s camp was the most they’ve ever had, organizers said. Each kids was given a free, two-hour lesson with former big leaguers and members of the UIC baseball team.

Kids were then sent home with a T-shirt, a photo with Granderson and a healthy lunch, courtesy of Granderson and his foundation.

Before camp got started, Granderson huddled the kids and told them the importance of hard work and practice. He then grouped kids in to teams of 30 and sent them off on fielding, hitting, pitching and baserunning tutorials.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” said Andrew Smith 10, in between diving for grounders at UIC’s indoor baseball field. “It’s cool. I really like baseball, so this sounded interesting.”

Some kids, like Andrew, took the camp seriously. Others, not so much.

The kids at Saturday’s camp were diverse in their ethnicity and also talent level. Granderson said that is all by design.

“We want to make sure kids play against ones they don’t always play against,” Granderson said.

Tanya Chrisp’s kids were taking the camp seriously. Standing on the running track above the playing field, she watched her three kids practice catching pop-ups.

“It’s cool,” she said. “They seem to be loving it.”

Chrisp’s children play baseball spring, summer and fall, she said. They heard about the camp from one of their coaches, and Chrisp thought it might be good for them to be inspired by a major leaguer.

“It gives them something to do out here on a Saturday and keeps them active,” she said.

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