I'm wearing my Curtis Granderson shirt today. The Yankee shirt. Number 14. This is significant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is why the heck a 75-year-old man is wearing a shirt bearing the name of any of today's professional athletes.
It was a gift. Several years ago, my son, Zack, who has inherited my rooting interest in the Yankees and my mother's desire to choose the perfect gift for whomever was on the receiving end, gave it to me for my birthday. (If my memory fails and it was Christmas, he will let me know.) It was ... almost perfect. One size too small. A nice compliment, but that consigned Grandy to the bottom of the shirt drawer for ... well, until now.
Now, I'm wearing it and, obviously, this is another significant reason for mentioning it. I've lost weight and gotten in better shape. Wearing the shirt actually makes me feel a little younger and a little stronger and who cares if it's all in my head. My head can use all the positive vibes it can get these days. As I've mentioned before, I often turn to sports when the rest of the world is too much to face first thing in the morning.
This seems like a good point to let the non-sports fans in on the conversation. Zack gave me the shirt because Granderson was my favorite Yankee at the time, and that was only partially because he's a heck of a good ballplayer.
Let's get the ballplayer part out of the way first. Granderson, who now pays centerfield for the New York Mets (the Yankees should have never let him go), is a three-time All-Star. He has power and speed, being the rare major leaguer to have 20 home runs, 20 triples and 20 stolen bases in the same year. He can bat leadoff or third, depending on the team's need. He's an excellent outfielder. A streaky hitter, he is also a clutch hitter and can carry a team when he's on a hot streak, as he did for both the Yankees and Mets. He is a quiet leader in the clubhouse. He also strikes out a lot, but today that doesn't seem to matter in baseball. It also makes him human.
None of that is why I have a Curtis Granderson shirt. Nor was it because I liked to hear Yankees' radio announcer John Sterling sing, "Oh, the Grandy Man can" after every Granderson home run. If I wanted speed and power I could have gone for MIckey Mantle, who was at least in my age group. The truth is, as good as Granderson has been on the field, he has been spectacular off it. Indeed, his biography on Wikipedia talks as much about his community and charitable work as about his baseball exploits. You don't find many athletes who come close to what he has done and continues to do out of uniform.
And who, by the way, are as well-spoken as he is. In fact, his ability to express himself served him well as an ambassador for Major League Baseball International, traveling to England, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, China, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan to promote baseball.