New Granderson Stadium a home run for UIC

Curtis Granderson outside entrance to new stadium

Curtis Granderson outside the entrance to the new UIC baseball stadium that bears his name. Photo: Steve Woltmann/UIC Athletics

UIC’s Curtis Granderson Stadium officially opened Thursday with more than 800 friends and family of UIC baseball on hand for the ribbon-cutting and the series opener against Wright State.

Granderson, a Flames’ Hall-of-Famer and current New York Mets outfielder, was there to throw out the first pitch as his parents and former coach watched.

“It’s neat to have my name on something that’s going to be here for a very long time,” Granderson said before the opening ceremonies.

“It’s been cool to have it on jerseys, but the fact that people are going to get to play at the stadium with my name on it is awesome.”

Granderson’s gift of $5 million to UIC is the largest known one-time donation from a professional athlete to their alma mater, according to Sports Illustrated.

Besides its role as home for Flames baseball, Granderson Stadium will host more than 38 Little League organizations every year, bringing Granderson’s love of the game to Chicago youth.

Ribbon cutting for Curtis Granderson Stadium

At the ribbon cutting: Flames players Jacob McNamara and Alex Jurich hold the ribbon; Curtis Granderson Sr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mary Granderson, Curtis Granderson and UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares. Photo: Steve Woltmann/UIC Athletics

“Without UIC, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” he said.

“When given the opportunity to give back and help those that have helped me, this was one of the first ways we thought about doing it. We had done a few things in previous years and this won’t be the last.

“We just want to continue to help out the next student-athlete that comes through UIC and also help spread to the community that UIC is here.”

The new ballpark has a total capacity of 1,784, with 1,284 fixed seats and space for 500 in the seating berms beyond left and right field. The venue has a luxury suite, press box and media suite, training room, team room and two outdoor synthetic turf practice tunnels.

“This is going to be, hands down, one of the top facilities in all of baseball,” Granderson said.

Granderson’s nonprofit organization, Grand Kids Foundation, promotes youth development through education, physical fitness and nutrition. He is an international ambassador of Major League Baseball, national ambassador for the White House’s anti-obesity campaign, Let’s Move!, and spokesperson for the Partnership for a Healthier America’s Drink Up water initiative.

“I have been coaching for 30-plus years and I have dealt with a lot of kids and Curtis is the most unique young man that I have ever been around,” said UIC baseball coach Mike Dee.

“From his Grand Kids Foundation to his donation, to this whole project, he is unbelievably committed to kids. I could not be more proud of him; he is a first-class individual.”

Baseball player Jeff Boehm rounds the bases

Senior Jeff Boehm rounds the base. He belted his fourth home run of the season in the seventh inning with a solo shot over the left field wall. Photo: Timothy Nguyen/UIC News

In the game after the ribbon-cutting, the Flames (14-16, 9-7) ultimately fell to the Raiders (19-16, 13-2) by a score of 11-5, but mounted a spirited comeback as UIC scored the final five runs and held WSU scoreless for the last five innings.

Redshirt sophomore Conor Philbin was a bright spot for UIC, going 3-for-4 from the plate.  Senior Jeff Boehm belted his fourth home run of the season in the seventh inning with a solo shot over the left field wall.

Action continues Friday with Student Day at the ballpark, with first pitch set for 6:05 p.m. and free admission for UIC and Chicago high school students.

Saturday’s game, scheduled for 12:05 p.m., is Kid’s Day at the park, with children under 13 admitted free. A pre-game festival starts at 10 a.m. with games, concessions and a chance to meet the players.

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