Granderson wins Clemente Award

Curtis Granderson high-fives a boy

Curtis Granderson hosts the Grand Kids Camp at UIC. (Photo: UIC Photo Services)

UIC alum and New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson is the winner of the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award, the prominent honor bestowed to the player who best represents the game of baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contributions, both on and off the field.

Granderson, a native of Lynwood, was presented the award Friday in his hometown before Game 3 of the World Series at Wrigley Field.

Granderson’s impact on the game of baseball, and the community at-large, is felt near and far. His nonprofit organization, Grand Kids Foundation, promotes youth development through three critical areas: education, physical fitness and nutrition. Granderson annually hosts the Grand Kids All-Star Camp at the stadium that bears his name on campus. Curtis Granderson Stadium is not only the home of the UIC baseball program, but it also serves as a place to learn and play the game to countless youth sports teams and organizations in and around Chicago.

The 2002 Horizon League Player of the Year made a significant impact on his alma mater when he donated $5 million to the university to fund construction of Curtis Granderson Stadium, which opened in 2014. Not only was his gift the largest in the history of UIC Athletics, but it is widely considered to be the largest contribution made by any professional athlete to his or her alma mater.

Granderson’s impact reaches far beyond the Grand Kids Foundation. Through the Grand Kids Summer Series, he routinely sponsors groups of kids to attend games at Citi Field, the home of the Mets, while also serving as an ambassador for the “Citi Home Runs for Communities” program. That initiative raised $328,000 for multiple New York-based charities over two seasons. In addition, Granderson has filled the role of MLB spokesman for the White House’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which is designed to fight obesity, and the “Drink Up” water initiative. The 2011 Silver Slugger has served as an MLB International Ambassador and was a player member of the On-Field Diversity Task Force.

“Curtis Granderson is an outstanding ambassador for our game and a positive role model for kids,” MLB commissioner Robert D. Manfred said. “His commitment to the many communities that have touched his life and the great impact of these efforts have had makes him a very deserving recipient of our most prestigious award.”

A panel of baseball luminaries helped select Granderson as this year’s Roberto Clemente Award winner from 30 nominees across the game. Fans were also able to vote on social media for the first time ever by posting hashtags to Twitter and Facebook.

The award was initiated in 1971 as the Commissioner’s Award, and in 1973, it was renamed in honor of the iconic Roberto Clemente. The Hall of Famer died in 1972 during a mission trip to aid earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Prior to his 13-year MLB career, Granderson was a three-year letterwinner for the Flames from 2000-02. He finished his UIC playing career as the program’s all-time leader in runs scored (178) and his batting average of .483 in 2002 remains the highest single-season total in team history. He was named Horizon League Player of the Year in 2002 after setting single-season records in hits (100) and runs (76) at UIC. Both remain top marks today.

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