MLB All-Star reflects on time at UIC

Photos: Jenny Fontaine

Curtis Granderson is a wildly popular UIC alumnus who has forged a career in the grinding, competitive field of Major League Baseball. He’s a 2003 graduate of the College of Business Administration and current outfielder for the Miami Marlins.

Granderson’s career demands being able to adapt. Those skills can be traced back to what he learned at UIC.

“UIC contributed a lot in the combination of, one, giving me an opportunity to play the game of baseball, and two, being in a very diverse environment — one of the most diverse schools in the country — so I got a chance to see all different people from all over the world,” he said. “And as I got a chance to play baseball with teammates from all over the world, it made that transition very easy.”

What he received was great academic training combined with a sense of responsibility and desire to give back.

“We’re getting a chance to help kids in a lot of different areas,” Granderson said.  “But home is home, so we’re always going to be doing something here in Chicago.”

Granderson returned to the UIC campus to host his Grand Kids Academy All-Star Camp July 10 at the state-of-the-art stadium that bears his name. The daylong event gets city kids moving and learning about the value of sports, teamwork, healthy foods and going to college.

Granderson’s life extends beyond the baseball diamond as a philanthropist. For the majority of his career, the three-time MLB All-Star has done just that: used his platform as an MLB player to inspire and launch 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 three times.

Granderson said he’s excited to see UIC recognized.

“When I say I went to UIC, people say, ‘Oh, the Flames, right?’ he said. “Before, I had to explain to different people what it meant and where it was.”

Granderson’s advice to kids who want to play professional sports: “When you’re having fun, that’s when you tend to be at your best. That’s been the biggest thing that has helped me get to where I am today. Still, underneath my hat, I write, ‘Don’t think: have fun,’ as a 38-year-old playing in the major leagues.”


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jboynes@uic.edu