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Categories:  Alumni, Campus, Flames Athletics

Groundbreaking for stadium a game-starter for UIC baseball

Granderson Stadium groundbreaking

At the Sept. 17 groundbreaking: L-R Garfield Park Little League director Frank Brim, UI trustee Ric Estrada, Curtis Granderson Sr. and Mary Granderson, Sparky Dragon, Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, Flames baseball coach Mike Dee, UIC athletics director Jim Schmidt and Jackie Robinson Little League director Bill Haley. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services (click on image for larger file size)

Ground was officially broken Tuesday for Curtis Granderson Stadium, thanks to a donation from UIC’s best-known professional athlete.

Granderson is the New York Yankees’ best home run hitter and a 2003 UIC alum.

Mike Dee, his former coach at UIC, said Granderson asked that the amount of his gift not be released. “It’s a matter of privacy,” Dee said.

Speakers at the ceremony included the slugger’s parents.

“People ask me what we did to raise such a great ballplayer,” said his mother, Mary Granderson.

“I say we never set out to raise a great ballplayer — all we wanted to do was raise a good person.”

She said her son texted her on her way to the ceremony, saying, “Now I have the chance … to impact my hometown of Chicago.”

His father, Curtis Sr., said, “You can’t get where you’re going unless you know where you’re from.”

Curtis Granderson Stadium Rendering

A sketch of the stadium, set to open next year. (Click on image for larger file size)

Curtis Jr., he said, “knows where he’s from.”

A lot of the baseball played at the new stadium — which will be completed next year — will be played by kids ages 6 to 18.

So one of the speakers was Bill Haley, director of the Jackie Robinson West Little League.

“This is a combination of a first-class facility and a way to bring young people to a university campus. I think that’s a home run,” Haley said.

The stadium will be home to youth initiatives in partnership with Major League Baseball, the Chicago Public Schools and area youth organizations.

“My mission is to outwork the gangbangers,” said Frank Brim, director of the Garfield Park Little League.

“There are 400 kids in my program, and not one is a gangbanger or drug dealer.”

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares thanked the Grandersons “for raising such a wonderful son,” adding, “What a great satisfaction it is to have one of our own students come back and give back to his campus.”

“Sports has a special place in our society. Like the arts with inner-city kids, it touches their hearts and minds,” said Ric Estrada, University of Illinois trustee and president of Metropolitan Family Services.

Last year Granderson became the fifth Yankee to hit 40 home runs in back-to-back seasons, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.

This season, “the Yankees started to make their move after Curtis came back off the disabled list — now they’re a game-and-a-half or two out of the wild card,” said Jim Schmidt, director of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“That says something about his leadership.”

Correction: the original version of this article reported that the stadium will replace Les Miller Field. The field will remain and the complex will be called Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium.