Granderson Represents Himself, Game With Class

By Jason Klein

As Seen in In New York Magazine  – 8/16/12

Commissioner Bud Selig once said he couldn’t think of anyone better to represent the game of baseball than Curtis Granderson.

After meeting with the Yankees Centerfielder, I can see why.

Granderson lived up to the high praise when I spoke with him on Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.  We chatted in front of a group of fifty children, and their parents, during a meet & greet event coordinated by Steiner Sports Marketing.

Speaking with Curtis Granderson

The Yankees center fielder was all smiles as he addressed the kids on a wide variety of topics, many of which emphasized his solid upbringing and strong moral background.  Dressed in full Yankees attire, Granderson stressed the importance of “always doing the right thing,” “working hard,” and “having fun.”

Though he happily discussed his accomplishments on the field – including 3 All-Star selections and a 2011 Silver Slugger Award – Granderson was most proud of what he’s been able to accomplish off it.

“There are 750 Major League Baseball players.  Out of those 750 players there are 38 of them with a college degree.  I’m one of them,” he said.  “So that’s one of the big things I brag about.  I don’t brag about too much else, except for that.”

And rightfully so.

Granderson earned a degree in business from the University of Illinois-Chicago after being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2002 as a junior.  He easily could have given up on school after securing a professional baseball contract.  However, as the son of two teachers, Granderson grew up understanding the importance of a solid education and the opportunities it can create.

“The great thing about getting your college degree is, after you’ve done that, you can do a million other things in life,” he said.  “All the doors and opportunities are available for you.  I do have an opportunity to play this great game of baseball, but that’s not going to happen forever.  I have to start thinking about other things I want to do with my life afterwards.”

The possibilities will be endless for the articulate and animated Granderson.  He didn’t dismiss the idea of going into teaching like his parents did, but upon his retirement, there will be no shortage of television and radio opportunities available for him.  An energetic and well-spoken former player is a hot commodity in the sports media industry.  Granderson’s bubbly disposition certainly fits the part.

He let his personality shine during our interview, joking with the kids about his obsession with social media and texting.  He admitted: “you can’t keep the phone out of my hand.”  He acknowledged an addiction to Facebook & Twitter – confirming he does all of his own posting and tweeting – and laughed while admitting that eating, sleeping, and putting on a clean pair of socks are among his favorite activities.

Regular stuff for a regular guy.

“We just go around and do our thing,” he said.  Everyone is surprised to see us in basic places like Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond.  We need groceries, and toothpaste. We need to go get that stuff too!  We’re normal people!”

In Selig’s eyes, Granderson is anything but normal.  He is a special player and an extraordinary ambassador for baseball.  For this reason, he’s shown no hesitation in sending him out to spread the game to other cultures.

“This game of baseball has allowed me the opportunities to do amazing things,” he said.  “I get a chance to be here at Yankee Stadium, travel all over the world to places like South Africa, New Zealand, China, Europe and Panama.  I’ve been to a bunch of different places to help promote baseball.  I get to meet with a lot of kids from all over the world and show them how cool this game is.”

They also get to see just how cool Granderson is.

Selig already knew.

Now I do too.

Watch My Interview With Granderson!

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Bald Vinny Leads Roll Call, Passionate Bleacher Creatures

By Jason Klein 

Originally Written ForIN New York Magazine – 4/12/11

Bald Vinny comes to play every night.

A staple within the hallowed walls of Yankee Stadium, like pinstripes and Sinatra, “Bald” Vinny Milano can be seen, and definitely heard, sitting in section 203 during every home game in the Bronx.  It’s obvious that Milano is a passionate and dedicated Yankees fan.  He is also the most prominent member of the Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures.

Although Milano is not the official leader of the Bleacher Creatures – that distinction goes to Tina “The Queen Bee” Lewis, a regular in the bleachers since 1983 – he became known as the face of the Creatures in 2005 after being featured on the YES Network’s “Ultimate Roadtrip.”

Just another day at the office for Bald Vinny

With his cult-like following comes a unique responsibility.  Prior to the first pitch of every home game, Milano rallies the rest of the creatures to their feet, and works them into a pinstriped frenzy.  As the first pitch crosses home plate, Milano gazes into centerfield, through his signature Oakley sunglasses, cups his hands around his mouth, and goes to work.

“Yooooooooo…Curtis!”

The Roll Call is underway.

Starting with the Centerfielder – Curtis Granderson has the honor in 2011 – Milano and the rest of the Creatures work their way around the Yankees defense, chanting the player’s name until they receive acknowledgement (typically a waive) from the player.

“Brett Gard-ner…Brett Gard-ner…”

A tradition in the Bronx since 1997, the Roll Call only takes place during home games.  According to Milano, “it disrespects the other team” if done on the road.  It’s also extremely difficult to rally enough troops to be heard while in enemy territory – not something the Creatures struggle with on East 161st Street and River Avenue.

“The Bleacher Creatures are the heart, soul, and passion of Yankee Stadium,” says Milano.  We represent the most dedicated and passionate of Yankees fans, and we always show up in full force to do whatever we can to help the team win.”

“Swish-er…Swish-er…”

According to Milano, the Bleacher Creatures are a different breed of fan.  They believe their proactive approach to cheering benefits the Yankees on the field.  With the Bronx Bombers in contention for a World Series almost every year, it’s difficult to argue with the results.

“Most baseball fans around the country only cheer when something happens,” says Milano.  “Yankees fans cheer in order to make something happen.  In the bleachers, it’s our job to make noise when there needs to be noise.  We are always the first on our feet when we need a big hit.  We’ll do whatever we can to give our team an advantage.”

“Mark Teix-eira…Mark Teix-eira…”

However, for Milano, it’s not just about peanuts and Cracker Jack at the old ballgame.  Attending every single home game as a fan is a time-consuming task in itself – he’s missed only 7 games since 2004.   For Milano, it’s also his livelihood.

Before and after each game, Milano is stationed on River Avenue, selling official Bleacher Creature T-Shirts, a business he developed in 2001.  In essence, he’s truly just doing his job everyday at the Stadium, getting to enjoy a ball game during his lunch break

“Rob-in-son…Rob-in-son…”

He often gets the question, “how do I become a Bleacher Creature?”  According to Milano, there are only three simple rules to follow.  First, a fan must willingly choose to sit in the bleachers.  An everlasting passion for the Yankees is the second requirement.  Finally, complete dedication is necessary.  Milano is quick to point out that it’s easy to sit in the bleachers for a few games each year and claim to be one of them.  That just won’t cut it.

“[Bleacher Creatures] attend 40-50 home games a year,” says Milano.  “It’s about being there in person and supporting your team, day in and day out.

“Der-ek Jet-er…Der-ek Jet-er…”

Perhaps no one was as consistently devoted to supporting the Yankees as Freddy Schuman, the legendary super fan, better known as “Freddy Sez.” Schuman would walk around Yankee Stadium each night with a frying pan, urging fans to hit it with a spoon for luck.  Schuman passed away in October 2010, during yet another Yankees postseason run, perhaps leaving Milano as the “next generation” face of the Yankees fan.

“That’s incredibly flattering to hear,” says Milano.  “Freddy was such an iconic presence.  I remember him when I was a kid.  His longevity is really admirable.”

“A-Rod…A-Rod…”

Rather than compare himself to someone like Schuman, Milano remains humble, just happy to be associated with a great group of fans, and the premier franchise in professional sports.

“I’m proud that I get to represent the creatures, and I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from Yankees fans,” he says.  “I’ve gotten to live out quite a few ‘Yankees fantasies’ over the years and I enjoy sharing those experiences with other fans.”

He gets to do just that, when he shows up to play, every night.

To view Bald Vinny’s Line of Bleacher Creature Apparel, visit www.baldvinny.com

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Derek Jeter Kids Clinic Scheduled for January 9

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 10/14/10

Many parents dream of one day watching their child play professional sports.  They envision their baby playing alongside a legend someday, perhaps someone like Derek Jeter.  For most, it’s a futuristic fantasy, extremely improbable, and unlikely.  However, thanks to Steiner Sports, it could potentially happen before they turn fourteen!

Derek Jeter at Last Year’s Clinic

On Sunday, January 9, 2011, children ranging in age from 7-14 will have the unique opportunity to take part in the 2011 Derek Jeter Kids Clinic, presented by Steiner Sports.  While Jeter will chase his 6th World Series Title this season, he will take time in early January to work one-on-one with a hundred lucky children in New York City.

Kids will rotate between five individual stations, working on hitting, fielding, pitching and base running. Joining Jeter at this once-in-a-lifetime event will be teammate, and Yankees Centerfielder, Curtis Granderson.  This dynamic duo will also participate in an exclusive question and answer session following the clinic.

Parents will be on hand to experience the day alongside their little sluggers.  They are encouraged to snap hundreds of photos and bring camcorders to capture the day’s events.  In addition, children will leave with a Yankees gift pack including autographed items from the players in attendance.

Throughout his legendary career, Derek Jeter has played alongside names like Rivera, Posada, Bernie, Tino, and O’Neill.  Here’s an opportunity for a select group of young ball players to add their name to that celebrated list.

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Field Trip Is Perfect Formula for Yankees Success…Again.

By Jason Klein

Originally Written For The Official Steiner Sports Blog – 3/4/10

This past Tuesday, Yankees Manager, Joe Girardi, once again played the role of Pinstriped Scientist, looking to concoct team chemistry, like he successfully did last season.  In 2009, Girardi mixed all the right elements from baseball’s periodic table.  The result: an on-field explosion that carried the Yankees all the way to a World Series Title.

Rivera & Rodriguez at Arcade/Photo Credit: New York Yankees

Last season, Girardi conducted a bit of an experiment with his players during Spring Training.  The club traded their bats and pine tar for pool sticks and chalk, and spent the day at a local billiards joint.  The bonding session helped solidify the foundation of the team’s close-knit group, forming relationships that, many claim, set the tone for their Championship run.

If Girardi wants to end this upcoming season the same way he did last season, he figures, he should probably start it the same way too.  It’s a new tradition for the most traditional franchise in professional sports.  This year’s class trip found the Yankees at a Tampa-based arcade for a day filled with video gamesskee ball, and pop-a-shot – something that resonated very positively with the players.

The stress-free environment allowed the players to forget the daily rigors of training, trying to earn a roster spot, or just fitting in.  While at the arcade, every player was on even ground.  Royce Ring could hang out with Mariano Rivera.  Ramiro Pena could socialize with Alex Rodriguez.  There were no superstars or bench players inside the arcade, a sense of equality off-the-field that should translate well into on-field team chemistry.

Wednesday afternoon, they started putting the theory to test.  It was back to business as usual at George M. Steinbrenner Field and the Yankees picked up right where they left off last November, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-3 in their first Spring Training game of the new season.  They even did it in walk-off fashion, as Colin Curtis hit a three-run home run in the 9th inning to secure the win…what, no pie?  It was a first small step towards defending their title, the 27th in franchise history.

Unlike previous camps, 2010 has been relatively smooth.  The drama and non-baseball related storylines have been non-existent.  The only real source of controversy has been over the 5th spot in the pitching rotation, a post to be filled by either Joba ChamberlainPhil Hughes, or a combination of Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, and Alfredo Aceves.

In addition, the Yankees enter the 2010 season with some familiar faces like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui gone, and some new additions like Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez onboard.  The “Core 4” of Derek JeterJorge PosadaAndy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera will again be at the heart of the Yankee Universe, as they pursue yet another Title.  It would be the sixth career ring for each franchise icon, and the 28th Championship in club history.

First thing’s first, the Yankees have to get through eight long months of baseball before they start planning another trip down the Canyon of Heroes.  Number twenty-eight is the goal this year – the target is once again, literally, on Girardi’s back – he changed uniform numbers.  It’s a responsibility he’s thoroughly prepared for.  He methodically laid the foundation this Tuesday at the arcade, shaking things up and formulating stronger team chemistry.

After last season, he’s got this down to a science.

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