NEW YORK -- In addition to being a baseball player, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson is a community leader, an activist. He is as committed to his charitable foundation as anyone in the game. He has served as an ambassador for Major League Baseball both at home and abroad. He is a leading voice in the MLB Players Association.
Granderson's desire to contribute to such things, he knows now, grew at least partially out of his mother Mary's influence. A longtime teacher in the Chicago Public School district, Mary Granderson was always active in her church and education communities, all while raising Granderson and attending as many of her son's events as possible.
"I've noticed now looking back, there were a lot of things she was heavily involved in whether it was at work, different groups, the church," Granderson said. "There were things she was involved in where I'm sure she provided input. So even those little things could have helped shape me into the person I am today."
This Mother's Day, Granderson is as thankful as ever for a mom that took an unwavering interest in his life. Though Granderson grew up within walking distance of the ball field that he frequented, Mary made a point of attending his games as often as possible, shuttling him to other fields when necessary. When Curtis began playing at the nearby University of Illinois-Chicago -- a choice fueled in part by his desire to remain close to his family -- Mary continued to attend as many games as she could.
That has not changed in the 11 years since Granderson first cracked the big leagues. Mary and Granderson's father, Curtis Sr., typically fly to Spring Training once per year. They always attend when Granderson plays at Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, taking other road trips throughout the summer when possible. This year, Mary Granderson hopes to see her son play in Seattle.
Along the way, Granderson's parents have both continued instilling in their son the values they first introduced when he was a child. For Mary Granderson, that meant beseeching Curtis to treat others with kindness.
"Her big thing was being welcoming and accepting, not only to my friends but the community in general," Granderson said. "If you can make me feel comfortable, whatever it happens to be, be it offering a ride or a meal or advice or information, that little bit can go a long way."
It also meant truly caring, both in the community and at home.
"She was involved a lot," Granderson said. "That's one of the things that I look back at now, and everyone talks about different reasons why people aren't involved in organized baseball or other sports or other activities. If your parents aren't there to pick you up and you don't have a way to get to or from, it makes it difficult to do those things."
Recently, Granderson was reflecting with his mother on those days, talking about how frequently she attended his games despite working full-time as a teacher.
"I know I couldn't come to all of them," Mary Granderson told her son, "but I wanted you to know that I was there."
"I didn't really realize it a lot when I was younger," Granderson said. "But if she wasn't there or chose not to be there, how different things would have been for me."