Granderson to play in World Classic
Tigers outfielder joins talented US squad for March tourney
DETROIT -- Curtis Granderson has spent the last several years as an ambassador for Major League Baseball abroad. Now, the Tigers center fielder will finally have a chance to represent USA Baseball on the field.
Granderson received and accepted an invitation on Thursday to join Team USA for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. It marks the first national team selection of any kind for the multi-faceted young player, who has emerged over the last three years as a two-way threat among the American League's budding young stars.
It's the latest Tigers commitment for the World Baseball Classic, which will begin for Team USA with workouts starting March 2 and opening-round games beginning March 7. For Granderson, it's a dream come true.
Granderson's long desire to play internationally was a part of his presentation when he joined a delegation of Major League and U.S. Olympic officials in November for a meeting with the International Olympic Committee to propose restoring baseball to the Olympic Games. One of his favorite baseball cards in his childhood collection, he said, was a Mark McGwire Team USA card from the 1984 Summer Olympics, the first for baseball as a sport.
"It means a lot to me," Granderson said. "We are talking about representing my country. It is an honor to be considered among the best in our nation, and to be able to represent my country on the field in an amazing event. We are trying to make the game of baseball a more globalized game, and it is humbling to be a part of that process."
Granderson was immediately interested when Major League players received a questionnaire near season's end to gauge their interest in the upcoming Classic. He has talked with Ken Griffey Jr., Todd Jones and Dontrelle Willis about their experiences playing for Team USA in the inaugural event three years ago.
"I'd love to get a chance to do that," Granderson said in November. "It would be an honor to get a chance to do it."
Granderson will have a chance to succeed Griffey as the Team USA center fielder, though he'll have some familiar competition. Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore received and accepted an invitation to the team last month. Sizemore won an outfield Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger last season. More likely, the two will play alongside each other in the same lineup.
"Grady is a great player, both offensively and defensively." Granderson said. "He has two Gold Gloves and has been on two All-Star teams. I haven't. It will be fun to play alongside him and continue to work with the best in baseball."
Teams are scheduled to announce provisional rosters later this month. Final 28-man rosters for each country are slated to be announced Feb. 24.
Assuming Granderson makes the final cut as expected, Detroiters won't have to travel far to watch him. After the aforementioned workouts in Clearwater, Fla., Team USA will open Classic play March 7 against Team Canada at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
"Having the blessing from the Tigers organization helps," Granderson said. "I feel confident that I will be able to get great repetitions and practice throughout this process, enabling me to be ready to come back to the Tigers ready to play."
Granderson joins what could be a sizeable list of Tigers players taking part in the World Baseball Classic. Carlos Guillen confirmed in November that he plans to participate again for Team Venezuela. Tiger teammates Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Armando Galarraga are expected to do the same. All but Galarraga were on an early list of invited players at the end of November, with Galarraga added later. Second baseman Placido Polanco could also take part for the Dominican Republic, though he said near season's end that he was inclined not to participate this time around.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.