Granderson named Miller Award winner

By Jason Beck
Updated: November 29, 2009

DETROIT — For the first time since Al Kaline, a Tigers player has won one of baseball’s annual national awards for community work.

Members of the MLB Players Association voted Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson as this year’s winner of the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award for on- and off-field performance.

The award, as voted on by Major League players in September, goes annually to the player whose passion to give back to the community inspires others. It includes a donation of $50,000 to the charity of the player’s choice.

Granderson plans to designate the funds for work that furthers the educational experience of kids in Michigan’s inner cities.

“I am honored to not only be receiving such an award, but also humbled that this was voted on by other Major League Baseball players,” Granderson said in an email Friday. “I am in a position to use my status as a professional baseball player to help others in need to rally others to help those in need.

“Working with the Detroit Tigers Foundation, the Detroit Action Team and the various other programs along with my own Grand Kids Foundation, I have seen first-hand impacts being made in Detroit and other inner cities throughout Michigan. I am excited at being able to continue to help enhance the educational experience for many of Michigan’s students.”

For Granderson, the award recognizes the community work that has long been a natural extension for him. He has been one of the most active members of the team in terms of community appearances around the city and region, whether it’s for school visits, fundraising efforts or work with the Detroit Tigers Foundation.

“It kind of just happened over time,” Granderson said of his work earlier this year. “I was always in different groups and organizations [as a kid], and in turn, those always had some kind of relationship with the neighborhood or the community, whether it was the ambassador program — which is our Big Brother/Big Sister program in high school — or Pep Club games. That’s just kind of how it started.

Then the idea came about 2 1/2 years ago: ‘Hey, you know, you really should look into doing foundation-type work.'”

Granderson’s own work through his Grand Kids Foundation helps students and schools in Michigan’s inner cities by purchasing school supplies and books, establishing baseball programs, providing equipment and helping improve facilities.

His fundraising efforts have included a charity basketball game last winter featuring local athletes and celebrities such as Kid Rock, and a wine-tasting event last month that included a bachelor auction with Granderson, Edwin Jackson and Ryan Perry.

Granderson’s next big goal of the foundation is to establish a college scholarship for local students. But he also hopes to set an example for others.

“I want to help others realize that they do not have to be rich and famous to make a positive impact in their community,” Granderson said Friday.

“Volunteering just one hour a week at any community organization or school can make a difference.”

Granderson became an author this year with the release of All You Can Be, a children’s book which tells his story of growing up in Chicago and encourages kids to build and chase their own dreams. The book hit shelves this summer, and became a part of Michigan’s library system earlier this month through a donation.

So much of Granderson’s work focuses on education in part because of his background, having grown up in a family of teachers and educators in Chicago.

“Learning the importance just from being around it, education was actually something I liked,” Granderson said. “It wasn’t something that I dreaded. I never disliked going to school. My friends were there. I had fun there. School wasn’t very hard for me.”

“So I enjoyed it. And I saw a lot of kids that I grew up with, that I speak to today, that say, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve done this or that differently, five, 10, 15 years ago.’ Not necessarily get straight A’s, but just the discipline aspect of it, not to get in trouble, do the right thing when it came to school to allow them opportunities to do those things that they wish they could do right now.”

On the field, Granderson set a career high with 30 home runs to go with a .249 average, 23 doubles, eight triples, 71 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. His seven leadoff homers this season pushed him ahead of Lou Whitaker for the franchise record with 24 for his career.

Granderson’s honor marks just the second time a Tiger has won a Players Choice award since they began in 1992. Justin Verlander was previously Detroit’s lone winner, having been voted the American League’s Outstanding Rookie of the Year in 2006.

In terms of community work, Kaline was Detroit’s last national winner when he received the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973.