As a five-year resident of New York City who has played for both the Yankees and Mets, Curtis Granderson has seen just about everything the metropolis has to offer. The 34-year-old right fielder is currently on the forefront of a resurgent Mets team that sits at 27-21 and with a young talented roster, the right fielder serves as one of the patriarchs in the locker room. Along with restaurant suggestions for the young’ns trying to make their way around the city, Grandy also serves as the team’s in-house DJ and has the Mets clubhouse rocking with an eclectic taste in music on any given day.
Currently playing in his 11th season, it’s obvious from speaking to Granderson and watching him play that he still truly enjoys lacing up his cleats and getting out on the diamond every day. Often seen smiling and joking with teammates in the dugout and doing plenty of great work in the community, it’s no surprise that Granderson was chosen as the 2009 MLBPA Marvin Miller Man Of The Year and voted as one of the friendliest players in the league by his peers in a 2011 Sports Illustrated poll.
Last week, Curtis held an autograph session at a Champs Sports store in Queens, New York and with a line of fans waiting out the door to meet him face-to-face, he took some time to answer questions about his favorite New Era hats, living in New York, and what it takes to get your music selection played in the Mets clubhouse.
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Growing up, were you a big New Era fan? Did you own a lot of hats?
I wore a lot up until high school. My friends and I would always check out the new hats especially when there were the buy one, get one half off deals. We would all put our money together and go to the mall but we would always end up getting mad at each other because someone would want the more expensive one, so the money wouldn’t always work out. But that’s how we would usually do it.
Being that you’re from Chicago, did you wear White Sox or Cubs hats?
I was a Braves fan so I had Braves stuff. I remember my first fitted hat was actually a Lakers hat. Why? I don’t know. I remember seeing it and thought it looked cool and it fit my head right so I threw it on. I remember when that switch went from the snapback to the fitted everyone wanted the fitted, now there’s been another shift and the snapback is popular again.
Is there an unwritten rule around baseball that guys can’t wear a hat of a different team off the field?
(Laughs) You know what? Definitely in the minor leagues you can’t do it, I’m not really sure why. But in the Big Leagues it’s not as bad for whatever reason. I’ve seen guys wearing another team’s hat and guys are like, “Oh, man that’s a cool hat! Where did you get that hat?” As long as it’s a throwback hat. If it’s a newer hat people get…I don’t want to say offended, but they wonder why. A throwback hat you can wear no problem.
The Mets have been wearing a ton of different styles this season. Do you have a favorite?
For me, I like the alternate road hat that we have. It has a grey embroidery, it’s all blue and has a lighter feel; not the mesh but a more breathable feel. I actually sent one to a buddy of mine, he called me and said, “Man, I can’t find it! It’s sold out everywhere.” So I was able to get one from the team for him.
When you were a kid, did you shop at Champs Sports a lot?
I did. For me, when I was coming in it was all about getting the Nike Air Maxes, my friends and I always liked those. We would get different T-shirts to match and it’s amazing thinking back when I was a kid to the sizes of things I bought. Some of the clothes don’t fit me to this day and I was way smaller back then. I was always trying to go baggier and bigger. 2-XL was too small, we always had to go bigger (laughs).
Have you enjoyed your time in New York City? What have been a few highlights?
Eating is big for me. Getting a chance to checkout a restaurant; from the unique ones that have only six tables to the larger ones. Getting a chance to go out see the people, enjoy the music, and enjoy the food all wrapped up in one. That can be your whole evening out; just hitting a restaurant in New York.
If you could pick one place to eat, where would it be?
Hmmm…One spot in New York…I have some friends coming into town…I would probably say Lavo on a Sunday night. You get a little party scene going you get to enjoy, you don’t have to spend a ton of money and you can still get to see a little bit of everything.
What’s the biggest difference between the Yankees fans and Mets fans?
The Yankees have been around for much longer than the Mets but the loyalty on both sides is very thick and engrained on each side. They want to let you know that they’ve been a fan of this team for this long and if their grandmother, grandfather, mother or father brought them to their first game and that’s how they became fans.
You have a ton of fans here today waiting to meet you. How does it feel to know you have such a hardcore fan base supporting you and the team?
It’s cool. I notice going around the city–I stay in Manhattan–the number of blue and orange hats that you see. It’s really cool that people came here today not to see a game but to get a chance to meet myself and hopefully grab some New Era gear to wear to the games as the weather continues to warm up.
How does living in New York compare to other places you have played in and lived in?
Definitely the price. It’s way more expensive living here. Everyone asks, “Man, why don’t you go somewhere else?” I go, “Even if I do, it’s still going to be pricey and I’m going to have to be an hour away from the stadium.” I gotta make sure it’s convenient for me to get to the field. New York is very diverse and you get a lot of people from all over the world that you run into throughout the city either in restaurants, on the streets or at the stadium. Other than that, it’s not much different other than it’s the biggest city in the U.S.
You’ve been very active in giving back to the community in every city you’ve been in. Why is that so important to you?
Realizing how I got to where I am was because of people helping me out over the course of my life. Whether it was parents, teachers, mentors or people who have done positive things and instill their wisdom and life lessons on me. Now I’m in the position where I can do it. It has nothing to do with the fame, it just has to do with I worked hard, I was able to get results with discipline and doing the right thing and hopefully that’s the message I can get to the kids to get them to hopefully be in the situation I’m in or better. It has nothing to do with playing baseball.
Did you have a similar mentor or role model when you were a kid?
I would say my dad. I loved the way he was around diverse and different types of people. He was a teacher for almost 30 years so he was friends with different walks of life–male, female, young, old–from all over the U.S. and world in general. The way he was able to interact with them and the way they were able to interact with him is kind of what I’ve taken and try to do that with other people. Everyone always says, “Man, you’re so nice!” Regardless of what my job happens to be, I can still be nice to people and that’s the main thing I took from my father.
What song are you walking up to the plate now?
I took it old school with “Nuthin But a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. One of the umpires actually recently told me, “That’s the best song right now in baseball that you’re walking up to.” So I got some credit for that one.
Before he got hurt, David Wright’s was good too when he would come out to “I Got 5 On It” and Lucas Duda comes out to Nas’ “Get Down.” Is music a big part of the locker room culture? Who gets to pick the music?
In the corner where my locker is it’s myself, Lucas Duda, now Eric Campbell, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares and we call that Club Grandy because I’m controlling the music. As the other guys walk into the clubhouse and towards that way, they’ll request songs and Duda is the bodyguard and he has to approve them coming into the club. Once they come in, we play their song. We have different days over the course of the week. We have “West Coast Wednesdays,” it could be “Fall Back Fridays,” “Women Wednesdays.” We’ve also done, “Throwback Thursday,” “Silly Saturday.” It all depends…”Soulful Sundays.”
Do the vets get to choose the music?
No, no, anyone can pick. When guys get a callup and it’s their first day they get a chance. When Noah Syndergaard came up, I said, “Hey, what do you want to hear?” He threw out a song from an ‘80s rock band from Philly, I can’t remember what it was but that’s what Noah wanted to hear so we threw it on for him.
Are you ritualistic at all about music? Do you switch up your walk up song if you’re in a slump?
I have in the past. You go through and think, “Okay, is this song working for me?” For one, are they playing it the way you want to hear? Are you hearing the energy from the crowd the way you envisioned it? And then, after that’s going, are you able to get the results you want? If not, you gotta switch it up again and try and figure out if you should play the song at, say, the five-second mark, the 15-second mark, how loud should it be? You also have to watch out for the edits because this is obviously a family-friendly game. So a lot of songs you want to play have to be cut quick because they get R-rated quick.
Well that makes “Nuthin But A G Thang” a perfect choice, then. The beginning of that song is so iconic.
I noticed when you’re on field, you’re one of the few guys who still goes for the high sock look. Is there an inspiration behind that?
There is. Watching the Negro Leagues highlights when I was growing up and doing my research about African-Americans that have played baseball and are responsible for where I am today, it’s my way of giving back to them and saying thank you. Whenever I’ve had the chance to pick the length of my pants, I’ve always worn them up. If, as a team, we all want to wear them down, I’ll obviously do that. But if it’s my choice I’ll wear them up 100 percent of the time.
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