MOOSIC – He was the first one on the field to warm up and one of the last players remaining in the home clubhouse after games last weekend.
Mainly because Curtis Granderson was signing autographs for hundreds of fans at PNC Field.
Even though he’s a three-time Major League All-Star Granderson was taking in the minor league experience for five days on a rehab assignment with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
“I think everything from the whole minor league experience, from the mascots being around, the fan interaction throughout the whole part of the game I think you need it,” Granderson said last week. “It’s something that could be mirrored up at the Major League level.”
Some players on a rehab assignment don’t stick around and do team or clubhouse activities with the club they join for a few days. Granderson, meanwhile, became one of the RailRiders while spending time with the team. Younger players picked his brain about the caliber of pitching in the big leagues, while he also got some tips from them about pitchers who were throwing on a certain day that he didn’t recognize.
“The Yankees do a really good job in spring training of getting a lot of guys into big league spring training camp so it’s not my first time being around these guys,” said Granderson, known as The Grandy Man to baseball fans and teammates. “It’s not their first time being around me so everyone’s very comfortable when it comes to that stuff.”
Speaking of spring training, Granderson took Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Thomas Neal under his wings showing him the ropes around the organization and even went to a hockey game together while in Tampa, Fla.
“It’s awesome to have him around,” Neal said. “He just showed me the ropes on the way the Yankees do things and just talk baseball, the mental side of it and just trying to get better. And he’s been a good guy, like my big brother. So it’s been fun to play and have him down here. Hopefully we get to play together down here and in New York.”
The second day that Granderson spent in Moosic he got to experience a very emotional experience with the RailRiders and Gwinnett Braves. That’s when 13-year-old Ralphie Morris, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a car accident in 2007, showed his current progress by running around the bases. In doing so, players for both teams were lined up on the baselines and Morris slapped hands before and after rounding the bases. He also received a certificate from SWB manager Dave Miley and a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance. Granderson, who later went on Twitter and praised the action by the team, then gifted the youngster with a game-winning home run.
He reiterated that sentiment the next day and added more ideas.
“The stories that need to be told are those kids that need an opportunity to get something that they never ever will,” Granderson said. “Those are the ones that need to be highlighted more often and to get both teams out there for a matter of a minute or two to allow a kid to relive his dream – I mean the game’s already long it’s not like that one minute’s going to affect anything – something like that should be done pretty much in every ballpark everywhere throughout baseball in the minor leagues and in the big leagues I don’t see why it can’t be.
“I don’t think anyone would complain too much for it. And I think it can replace some of the things that have been going. That’s a very emotional, a very heartfelt a very exciting time for him and all the players…When you get a situation where a kid will never have the opportunity to do something he’s never done it’s going to be talked about a very long time.”
Granderson’s legacy is likely one that will be talked about for a very long time as well for being a great teammate, his passion for the game and his caring nature and attitude for those around him.