At summer camp, kids learn baseball — and nutrition

Curtis motioning to stations with group of kids

UIC alumnus and MLB All-Star Curtis Granderson hosts his annual baseball camp for youth of all abilities at Granderson Stadium at UIC. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

For some youngsters, July means summer is almost over. But for future major leaguers, anticipation builds.

Excitement was easily recognizable July 13, thanks to a unique summer camp that teaches the finer points of baseball and the importance of having the right diet.

The 4th Annual Grand Kids All Star Camp attracted youth of all abilities, including those aspiring to go pro.

More than 150 kids filed into UIC’s Curtis Granderson Stadium to participate in a baseball clinic featuring slugging, throwing, pitching and fielding. The camp included a campus tour by the UIC CHANCE Program. The Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Lunch Bus program catered a picnic lunch.

Some kids took time to adjust while others came in and felt comfortable right away.

Grand Kids participants warming up with stretches

Participants learn about baseball, education and nutrition. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

“We’ve got white, black, Hispanic boys and girls all out here,” said New York Mets outfielder and three-time All-Star Curtis Granderson. “And there are kids I know that haven’t played. I even heard them saying, ‘I know I can’t throw.’ But I had a couple kids that said earlier, ‘That was fun. That was cool.’

“Those are the things that inspire me to keep playing, and hopefully, we can do those same things for the kids here today — just get a couple of them realizing that, ‘Wow, baseball is really fun and exciting, I didn’t know. I want to try this out.’”

Granderson and UIC Flames baseball coaches and staff divided boys and girls by age and ability. Participants absorbed basic baseball instruction and skills training for entry-level youth, all in an educationally enriching environment.

The camp takes advantage of the stadium — home to UIC Flames baseball and Chicago youth sports organizations, which was funded by a $5 million donation from Major League Baseball’s 2016 Roberto Clemente winner — and is organized by the Grand Kids Foundation, a nonprofit Granderson founded to provide educational, physical fitness and nutritional tools and resources for positive development and advancement of youth.

A lifelong Chicagoan and UIC alumnus (CBA, 2003), Granderson uses the stadium and his nonprofit to bring his love for the game to Chicago youth in a supportive environment.

Curtis Granderson

New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson graduated from the College of Business Administration in 2003. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Granderson said he’s played baseball since he was 6 years old. Camps were, in part, what introduced him to the sport and helped propel him into his career.

He added that the camp’s potential impact is lasting — it’s teaching kids why nutrition is important not just to play baseball, but to accomplish the things they need academically to move in the right direction.

A three-year letter winner as the Flames’ center fielder from 2000-2002, Granderson left UIC as the career leader in runs scored (178) and the all-time single season best batting average (.483, 2002). He was named Horizon League Player of the Year in 2002 after setting single season school records in hits (100) and runs (76). His .483 batting average was the second highest in the nation that year.

Granderson has enjoyed life in the majors, being named Detroit Tiger Rookie of the Year in 2005 and in 2006, he became the first UIC player to appear in the World Series. He is a UIC Flames Hall of Famer.