Granderson's Chicago upbringing makes for fun NLCS
Stomping Grounds: Right fielder looks back on childhood in Second City
NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson was that close to growing up a Cubs fan. Really, just one or two fewer remote clicks away.
As a kid in the Chicago suburb of Lynwood, Ill., nobody would have blamed Granderson for idolizing Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace or any other of the crop of Cubs that captivated local boys during the 1980s. But Granderson grew up rooting for the Braves, mostly because, day after day, the Cubs got in his way.
Granderson anxiously anticipated watching "Saved By the Bell" on WGN as a preteen when he got home from school. He also remembers excitedly flipping the channel, only to find Cubs games on instead. Granderson loved baseball, but this kept happening. Over and over again.
"They played so many day games," Granderson said before the start of the National League Championship Series, the first ever between the Mets and Cubs. "I always missed [the show]!"
Consider it water under the bridge for Granderson, who remains very true to his Chicago upbringing in almost all of his other loyalties and actions. His family and friends will flock to Wrigley Field for Game 3 of the NLCS on Tuesday, drawn to Granderson's amiable nature and the way his roots in the city still hold strong.
If his homecoming is a hostile one, it's only because Granderson persists as a vital cog atop a Mets batting order looking to bring the franchise its first World Series appearance since 2000.
"That's home for me," Granderson said of Chicago. "I love getting a chance to let everybody know I'm from there. That's important to me, and bragging about how great everything there is."
The son of two lifelong area educators, Granderson prioritized college and attended the University of Illinois-Chicago. He still makes his offseason home in the area, and in the winter months, he hosts events for his organization, The Grand Kids Foundation, promoting physical fitness and education to local youths.
After his "Saved By the Bell" days, Granderson starred in baseball and basketball for T.S. South High School in Lansing, before earning a two-sport scholarship to UIC. At T.S. South he met Eddie Mahoney, now the operating partner for Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, whose main location includes Granderson as an investor. The North Side sports bar features both the "Grandy Triple Stack Burger" and the Kyle Schwarber-inspired "Schwarber Bomb" on its menu. And Cubs owner Tim Ricketts is also an investor in the venue, so its loyalties appear split at the moment.
Either way, Granderson has made it difficult for patrons there to celebrate by making key contributions to New York's 2-0 start in this NLCS. The right fielder sparked rallies in both games, driving in two runs in Game 1 and scoring two more in Game 2. He also robbed a home run in Game 2 to help the Mets topple Chicago's once indomitable ace Jake Arrieta.
This postseason success -- he also hit .389 in the NLDS -- came on the heels of Granderson's most productive season since 2012. He led the Mets in games, hits, walks and on-base percentage, while maintaining his reputation as one of the most approachable veterans in the game.
"I tell all the young players that come up here, if you handle the game like Curtis Granderson does because you're talented, you're going to be successful," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You wouldn't know if he's 0-for-40 or if he's 30-for-40. That persona on a star, and young players see it, it helps a lot."
Granderson's also excelled at Wrigley Field since coming to the National League, posting a .354/.421/.563 slash line at the Friendly Confines. (For what it's worth, he owns a respectable .254/.318/.477 line at U.S. Cellular Field as well).
"Looking forward to it," Granderson said of going home. "Get a chance to see some friends and family and get something good to eat."