Anthony Fenech Detroit Free Press
Published 8:57 PM EDT May 21, 2019
He hasn’t called it home for nearly 10 years, but Curtis Granderson feels like he’s home every time he returns to Comerica Park.
“This is where I got a chance to start my career,” Granderson, now with the Miami Marlins, said before Tuesday’s series opener against the Detroit Tigers.
But one would need to rewind to a few years before his major league debut in 2004 to find Granderson’s “Welcome to Detroit” moment.
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It came in 2002, just after he signed his rookie contract with the Tigers after being drafted in the third round out of the University of Illinois-Chicago.
“First time coming on the field here and getting asked, ‘Hey, do you think you could play center field here?’ ” Granderson said. “And this was before they had moved the fences in, and my thought process was, ‘There’s no chance’ — the flagpole is still out there and it’s 438 feet away. …”
Fast-forward two seasons, and Granderson was playing out there. He made his debut on Sept. 13, 2004, against the Minnesota Twins — playing in a center field that had been downsized when the Tigers moved the left-center field fences in prior to the 2003 season — and in the seasons that followed, he became one of the team’s most well-liked players during the rebirth of one of the country’s best baseball cities.
“The fact was that the city was in a situation they were in before, when technically the economic crisis had hit and they were starting to get affected here,” Granderson said. “So many people were turning to sports and looking for enjoyment, and we were able to provide that. Everywhere we went, not only in Detroit, but out of Detroit, we felt that support.”
Granderson, 38, is on his sixth team since leaving the Tigers in a three-way trade that sent him to the Yankees in 2009. Though it was met with criticism — Granderson was a fan favorite — the Tigers acquired Austin Jackson from New York and Max Scherzer from Arizona, the other team in the trade, which paid plenty of dividends in the years to come.
Granderson is hitting .179 with five home runs and 12 RBIs this season. In 16 seasons, he is a .251 hitter with 337 home runs and 915 RBIs, entering Tuesday. Certainly considered to be in the twilight of his career, he has consistently found employment on winning teams over the years and has made eight trips to the postseason, with the Tigers, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Brewers.
[ Tigers’ offensive woes remind us what’s missing in rebuild ]
But his first trip, in 2006 with the Tigers, remains closest to his heart.
“I’d probably say watching Magglio (Ordoñez) hit the home run to send us to the World Series,” he said, when asked for his favorite moment with the Tigers. “That was really cool, because you’re getting a chance to go and be one of the final two teams left standing.
“Even though we were up, you didn’t know how the thing was going to end, and I don’t think anybody thought it was going to end that way and the fact that it did, and we got a chance to end it here in Detroit, that was pretty cool.”
Though he is noncommittal about his future, Granderson very well could be making his final trip to Comerica Park. He is the eighth-oldest player in baseball. Over the weekend, Athletics reliever Fernando Rodney — who also played on that 2006 American League championship team with Granderson — made what could be his final trip to Detroit.
“I think it’s one of the things that a lot of people assume, that because I played in New York, that automatically trumps things because it’s the big city, big market,” Granderson said. “But for the first (team), nothing can ever be taken away.”
Granderson played in his first World Series while with the Tigers, earned his first All-Star Game berth during that stint, played for the United States in the World Baseball Classic for the first time, and created his identity as a fun-loving, professional and personable player.
“There’s a lot of special things that Detroit was for me,” he said.
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Contact Anthony Fenech at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
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