11/30/07 9:20 PM ET
Granderson continues global tour
Tigers center fielder will spread game in South Africa
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
A year ago around this time, the Tigers' center fielder spent two weeks hopping around Europe as part of Major League Baseball's offseason campaign to spread the game across the continent. This year, Granderson is heading to South Africa to do much the same thing.
It's not a bad offseason tradition for someone who wants to experience different cultures while he's still young and make a contribution to the game.
"I'm very proud of it," Granderson said earlier this week. "It's amazing I get a chance to have this honor for helping globalize this game. Teams are more diverse than ever, and they're going to continue to grow that way. To be a part of that, to help spread the game, is definitely an honor."
Major League Baseball International conducts the ambassador program to help spread the game across the globe, matching players with different parts of the world. Past participants include such famous names as Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Bo Jackson and Al Leiter.
Granderson became a part of the program last year, when MLBI tabbed him for a tour of England, Holland and Italy that included visits to MLB developmental academies. He had been hoping to be part of the MLB team to take part in the Japan Series last year, but with the Tigers' trip to the World Series taking him out of the running for that, the ambassador program became a nice consolation prize.
Granderson toured Europe with one of his close friends, Joe Lacy. They'll tour South Africa together, but Granderson also is bringing his father along to enjoy the experience. He didn't need much convincing when MLBI approached him with the idea.
"Without hesitation," Granderson said. "I said, 'Of course, let's find the dates and get it going.'"
Granderson and company will depart Chicago for Cape Town next Thursday and arrive on Friday. He'll hit the tour on Saturday by conducting a hitting clinic and autograph session in the city.
From there, Granderson and friends will enjoy three days off to become tourists. They'll visit Robben Island Museum, where freedom fighters turned what once was a prison into a symbol of the struggle for equality. Future leaders held there include Nelson Mandela.
Granderson and his group will spend two more days on a safari before visiting Pretoria for the USSASA Summer Games, during which he'll conduct clinics and talk to players. Following another day off and a media session in Johannesburg, Granderson will appear at the African Championships to meet with South Africa's national team as well as players for the MLB academy.
"The big thing is that they're interested," Granderson said. "They're going to want to ask questions. They're also going to want to learn it's not as difficult as it seems. Even though I'm in the Major Leagues and they're just developing, a lot of it's the same."
Granderson returns to Chicago after that, a week ahead of the Christmas holiday, and he finally will get to spend some extended time at home following a whirlwind offseason. Though the Tigers missed out on the postseason this past year, Granderson spent much of October as a part of it, working as a television analyst for TBS and ESPN. He was at sea for part of November on a Tigers-sponsored cruise to the Caribbean. He spent part of this week in Dallas for a speech at Southern Methodist University, then he was scheduled to return to Detroit this weekend for an autograph session to raise money for the Detroit Tigers Foundation.
"I have done a lot of stuff as we get towards Christmas," he said. "Everything is very similar, even though we had a lot more [to do]."
His big challenge so far has been to keep up his offseason workout regimen through all the trips. Once he finally gets back home, Granderson will embark on his final offseason challenge to find a house in his native Chicago. He rented an apartment in the city this winter while he searches for a place, but while he says he has been home slightly more this year than last, he hasn't seen the apartment much lately. He returned home from the Tigers cruise last month to a freezing apartment because he hadn't been back since the weather turned cold.
"It's been vacant for a long time," Granderson admitted.
Even if he finds a home he wants to buy, he won't necessarily become a homebody. MLB's Japan Series returns following next season, and though he hopes to be with the Tigers in the playoffs again, Granderson would be interested in seeing Japan if he isn't. If he does, he'd like to take bring along his mom, who can't be part of the South Africa trip due to prior commitments.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.