LANSING | It’s not every day youth league baseball players are asked for their autographs by major league ballplayers.
But that was part of the experience for 30 baseball players from the Lansing and Lynwood Little League programs who participated in a special game on Thursday coordinated by New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson -- a Lynwood native and alumnus of T.F. South High School.
Granderson, in exchange for his support, was presented a special jersey signed by all the players who participated in Thursday’s game played at the Lansing Sports Complex.
“No one’s ever asked for my autograph,” said 12-year-old Justin Krueger of Lansing, who said he was looking forward to meeting Granderson even though his favorite player is Paul Konerko of the White Sox.
Each of the kids participating in the game received a special jersey identifying them as “Grand Kids,” and also bearing a slogan on the back telling them to “Work Hard. Stay Focused. Dream Big.”
They also were given special medallions resembling the one Granderson wears during games.
Granderson picked up the tab for the jerseys and medallions, and also spent about 40 minutes engaging in workouts with the kids prior to them playing a ballgame Granderson briefly watched.
Granderson said his purpose was to encourage kids to enjoy baseball.
“It’s an opportunity to teach them something about the game, while they have fun,” he said.
Granderson played in the Lansing-based Babe Ruth League when he was 13 through 18, and received a tour of the current facilities which earlier this year underwent improvements to its infield with Granderson also picking up the tab.
He said he was pleased with the facilities, noting the field compares favorably to some minor league facilities.
“There are some ballparks where you have to worry about broken glass or rocks, but you don’t get that sense here,” he said.
Granderson recalled one bad game he played at the Lansing Sports Complex -- the first game of a doubleheader where he was supposed to leave later to play basketball.
Pitching in that game, he was one out away from getting through an inning when he walked a batter, then gave up a grand slam home run.
“That was one of the last games I ever pitched,” he said.
Lynwood village trustee Rich Stephens brought with him a team photograph of his son, Kevin, and his youth Tee-ball team from the spring of 1988 when Granderson was one of Kevin’s teammates.
“Even back then, he understood the fundamentals,” Rich Stephens said. “He’d be shouting instructions at his teammates about how they should handle themselves on the field.”