All-Star advice at baseball clinic

Curtis Granderson Stadium hosted a baseball academy for about 200 kids July 18, where the stadium’s namesake himself shared wisdom about fitness, nutrition and education.

For some kids, it was the first time they learned to use a glove and practice alongside a Major League Baseball player. Others experienced their very first college tour.

It’s the fifth year that Curtis Granderson has brought his Grand Kids Academy All-Star Camp to the state-of-the-art field complex at UIC. The daylong event gets city kids moving and learning about the value of sports, teamwork, healthy foods and going to college.

“There’s a lot of different people that have helped me get to the point of where I am today,” said Granderson, a 2003 graduate of the College of Business Administration and current outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Granderson said he considers UIC his home before mentioning that student-athletes from Lansing’s Thornton Fractional South High School — his hometown high school — were in attendance to teach participants the basics of slugging, throwing, pitching and fielding.

“I want to definitely — if I get the opportunity — come back and always help out,” Granderson said.

For the majority of his career, the three-time all-star has done just that: used his prominence as an MLB player to fuel youth education and sports initiatives, including his own nonprofit, the Grand Kids Foundation.

At UIC, his historic $5 million donation funded construction of Curtis Granderson Stadium. He has raised millions more to make a positive impact off the field, which earned him the 2016 MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award and other prestigious recognition for his community involvement and philanthropy like the MLB Players Association’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award.

But in Chicago July 18, his focus was the city’s underserved children.

“This program is targeting Chicago’s most in need,” said Christina Coleman, a board member of the Grand Kids Foundation.

Participants ate healthy meals at the camp, thanks to a partnership between the foundation and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Called Grand Giving, the initiative provides free meals to local youth in the summer.

Afterward, campers were welcomed on a tour of the UIC campus to help them imagine life at college and beyond.

“These things really go a long way,” said Bo Porter, director of player development for the Major League Baseball Players Association. “When kids know that people care about them. It gives them just an added motivation to actually go out and do great things.”

Photos: Jenny Fontaine