Curtis Granderson’s role on TBS’ MLB coverage brings him back to his childhood. Growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, Granderson wasn’t a Cubs or White Sox fan. He liked the Braves, whose games were available on superstation TBS.
When Granderson would come home from school, all he wanted to do was watch “Saved by the Bell,” which aired on WGN. But the show would be preempted if the Cubs were playing a day game. It frustrated him to no end.
“I was like, Why are the Cubs playing these day games? Everyone else plays night games. I’m trying to watch my show,” Granderson said. “Then at night on the superstation, here come the Braves, and they’re dominating, and I’m like, I like this team.”
Now Granderson, who played for seven teams in a 16-year MLB career, is a studio analyst for TBS’ Tuesday night games. He’ll be on the pre- and postgame shows next week with fellow analysts Pedro Martinez and Jimmy Rollins and host Lauren Shehadi for the Sox’ game against the Dodgers. Brian Anderson and Ron Darling will call the game on TBS, whose broadcast will be available in Chicago.
Granderson, 41, appeared on TBS’ postseason coverage before the network bought its new package. Turner Sports has a history of assembling quality casts, from its highly acclaimed “Inside the NBA” to its new “NHL on TNT.” Its MLB crew has clicked, as well, and Granderson said that starts at the top.
“Everybody that puts the show together, the consistent message is be yourself,” Granderson said. “Nothing is scripted. If we’re supposed to talk about the White Sox and all of the sudden the conversation shifts, that’s not wrong. That makes everybody at ease. That allows everybody to flow and go, and that’s the chemistry you see on TV.”
Granderson grew up in Lynwood — his parents still live there — and went to Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing. He was back home two weeks ago to throw out the first pitch at Lynwood Little League’s Opening Day. When he played there in the late 1980s, Granderson said the league had almost 200 kids. He said in the mid-2010s, it fell to about 30 across all levels.
“So collectively we’ve been doing a ton of different things from the schools to the community,” Granderson said. “This year it was exciting. We had 97 kids signed up. So it’s starting to come back, which is great to see.”
Despite his baseball prowess, Granderson thought he was a better basketball player after high school. He chose to attend UIC because, in addition to giving him a baseball scholarship, the school gave him a chance to play basketball. Unfortunately for him, he was behind two of the best guards in UIC history. Cedrick Banks is the school’s all-time leading scorer, and Martell Bailey led the nation in assists in 2003.
“The chances of me getting on the court were very slim,” Granderson said.
They went to zero when Granderson broke his thumb in baseball practice the day after his tryout with coach Jimmy Collins. Once he recovered, Granderson locked into baseball, particularly after his sophomore year when he played in Mankato, Minnesota, in the Northwoods League. His play caught the attention of players from across the country.
“I’m on a team with kids from UCLA, Baylor, USC, the quote-unquote big schools of baseball,” Granderson said. “And these kids are telling me, You should transfer, you should play with us, how come you’re at UIC? I built the confidence, like, Wow, I can hang with these guys.”
Major-league scouts began coming to see Granderson during his junior year, and the Tigers drafted him in the third round in 2002. He still graduated in 2003 from the College of Business Administration. He has given back to UIC, donating $5 million in 2013 to help fund the construction of Curtis Granderson Stadium on campus.
For all of his community work, Granderson — who lives in University Village — will be recognized before the Mets-Cubs game July 15 at Wrigley Field as part of MLB’s City Connect program. Granderson played for the Mets from 2014 to ’17 and helped them sweep the Cubs in the 2015 National League Championship Series.
“A lot of my friends that were in the stands were cheering for me but wearing Cubs gear,” Granderson said. “And then they ended up winning the World Series the next year. So I didn’t continue the curse. They can’t hold that against me.”