Mets’ Curtis Granderson wins Roberto Clemente Award

Curtis Granderson cut short his postseason vacation this year, skipping Spain to come back home to get one of the biggest honors of this career — the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award.

Major League Baseball announced before Game 3 of the World Series that the Mets outfielder won the annual award the league says is given to a player who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

“To be mentioned in same breath with Clemente, even for a little bit of time, is really cool and an honor,” Granderson said.

Since the Cubs are in the Fall Classic and hosting Game 3 Friday, Granderson is being honored in his hometown of Chicago — even though he grew up a Braves fan, not a Cubs fan. “The Braves in the 90s, TBS, I always enjoyed watching them,” Granderson said.

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Curtis Granderson says winning the 2016 Roberto Clemente award is 'really cool and an honor.'

Curtis Granderson says winning the 2016 Roberto Clemente award is ‘really cool and an honor.’

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“I always wanted to see the Cubs and White Sox do well, though,” he added. In 2005, when the Sox won the World Series, “I was excited for the city to be a part of that. In ’08, I was doing TV work and there was a lot of hype and expectation for the Cubs. I got to see the city go through that rollercoaster. Now they’re three wins away and I was waking up to a text that people were already at the bars in the morning.

“Being a Chicagoan, it’s exciting,” added Granderson who said he’s rooting for the Cubs and Indians to push each other to a deciding Game 7. That’s got to be in part because Granderson and Jason Kipnis, who’s from the Chicago suburbs, train together during the winter.

Granderson created his Grand Kids Foundation in 2007 to foster education and offer baseball opportunities for inner-city youth in Chicago. He does work in Detroit, New York and Port St. Lucie, too. He also donated $5 million toward a $10-million indoor/outdoor baseball complex at his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Chicago. The complex is named after him — Curtis Granderson Stadium and opened in 2014, providing nearly 10,000 inner-city kids a place to play ball.

Curtis Granderson wins the award in part for being a 'positive role model for kids.'

Curtis Granderson wins the award in part for being a ‘positive role model for kids.’

(Kathy Willens/AP)

Before he started playing pro ball, Granderson said he watched his parents helping others, which made him want to follow their lead. He likes the idea of being able to “show the excitement of what baseball has done for me and what it can do for those kids in those communities,” he said. He says he still considers himself “a big kid.”

Curtis Granderson continues to be the center of it all for Mets

Granderson appreciates Clemente’s remarkable skill as a ballplayer, noting that Clemente did everything well “before we got into the 5-tool athlete.” And, Granderson adds, he admires that Clemente “was able to recognize that his name carried some weight he could get things done in the city that he played in.”

Granderson can, too.

Roberto Clemente.

Roberto Clemente.

“Curtis Granderson is an outstanding ambassador for our game and a positive role model for kids,” Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “His commitment to the many communities that have touched his life and the great impact of these efforts makes him a very deserving recipient of our most prestigious award. On behalf of Major League Baseball and all of our Clubs, I congratulate Curtis and thank him and all of our nominees this year for everything they do to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Granderson is the fourth Met to win the award, joining Gary Carter (1989), Al Leiter (2000) and Carlos Delgado (2006). Other players with New York ties who recently won the award include Carlos Beltran in 2013, when he played for the Cardinals, and Derek Jeter (2009).

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The award was originally called the “Commissioner’s Award,” but was renamed for the Great Clemente in 1973 after the Hall of Famer died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while trying to bring supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Granderson, 35, had his fourth season of 30 or more homers this year, finishing with exactly 30. He batted .237 with 59 RBI and a .799 OPS in 150 games for the Mets.

new york mets
curtis granderson
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