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Arvia: Granderson a model on a roll

New York Yankee Curtis Grandersspeaks during an assembly T.F. South High School Lansing IL where his high school jersey number

New York Yankee Curtis Granderson speaks during an assembly at T.F. South High School in Lansing, IL, where his high school jersey and number were retired Friday, December 9, 2011. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 12, 2012 8:19AM



There was a moment — more than one, actually — when Curtis Granderson genuinely seemed taken aback. The man who stands now in the footprints of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, who was fourth in the American League Most Valuable Player voting announced last month, who hit 41 homers and led the major leagues with 136 runs in 2011, who has done network broadcasting and foreign goodwill tours, stood on a makeshift stage Friday in his old high school’s new gym and groped for a way to tell the cheering throng what he was feeling.

“Wow,” he said. “First and foremost, again: Wow. Wow. ... Wow.”

That will happen when you sit through three or four standing ovations for yourself, and another for your beaming parents, seated just to your right; when you listen to the testimonials of old coaches; when you watch rising from the audience 15 teammates from a dozen years past; when the kids in the bleachers squeal at the mention of the gold Chevy Cavalier you used to drive and scream when your No. 14 T.F. South jersey is retired. Granderson did all that Friday, before he had dinner with the winners of a Lansing Babe Ruth raffle, before he came back to the gym to watch his Rebels play Reavis.

So when he said, “T.F. South has always been my home, will always be my home. ... Rebel pride, through and through. No one can ever take that away from me,” there wasn’t a soul watching who believed otherwise.

“At first I thought, ‘Unveil the number, everyone talks, we’re done,’ ” Granderson later. “Then, as everyone’s talking, and the things they’re saying, and the people I see, and the people who came back, knowing how difficult it is for everyone to do it ... it’s amazing how above and beyond everyone went just for myself.”

Actually, listening made the turnout, the above and the beyond, seem happily inevitable. Consider former coach Bill Anderson, whose own number is the only other the team has retired, and the hundreds of kids he coached over 33 years.

“If you need a role model, every student in this building should look right here,” he said, pointing to Granderson. “You couldn’t emulate a finer human being.”

Hyperbole? Not as far as Anderson is concerned. After all, he bought the children’s book Granderson authored — “All You Can Be: Learning and Growing Through Sports” — for each of his eight grandchildren. He suspects that Granderson, had he not been traded to the Yankees from the Tigers, could have one day been mayor of Detroit. He predicts big things for Granderson’s New York future, saying, “You watch. ... Derek Jeter is the man. (Granderson) is going to be right behind him.”

And post-baseball? Granderson envisions an exciting career in the arena of athletic eligibility.

“I do like the education and the athletic side, so possibly compliance at the collegiate level, making sure kids do everything they need to to stay eligible,” said the son of two teachers. “There’s no pressure for me to win ... Obviously I want them to win, but at the end of the day I just need to make sure they get their grades and get them in on time.”

Not that he’ll need the gig. Granderson, with next season’s
$10 million guaranteed salary, will be at $29 million in career earnings. The Yankees hold a club option on Granderson for 2013 at $15 million — bumped from $13 million thanks to his finish in the MVP voting.

If he has another season like 2011, picking up that option ought to be a no-brainer. Of course, some question whether he has another such season in him. On Friday morning, ESPN unveiled the work of stats projection expert Dave Szymbarski, who suggested Granderson’s numbers will dip in 2012 to 31 homers, 92 RBI and 104 runs.

“Back here I was too small, I wasn’t fast enough, I wasn’t strong enough to play at the Division I level,” Granderson said. “Then when I got drafted, all the writers were saying I was too slow to play center field, I wasn’t strong enough to play on the corners, I didn’t have enough power, I panned out to be a fourth outfielder. ... As long as there’s doubt, that gives me more motivation.”

And Granderson, in turn, intends to give it to someone else.

“Somebody told me once, ‘A lot of people are only going to get the chance to see you once. How do you want them to remember you? Not the fact that you won or lost, but how you went about your business.’” Granderson said. “When they said that to me, it stuck. I’m always going to hustle. I’m always going to be positive.”

And he’s always going to be a Rebel, through and through.



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