Journey To Motown

COMSTOCK PARK— West Michigan fans love their Whitecaps. In fact, they love any of the big names that happen to stroll into Fifth Third Ballpark. Latest Tiger to make his mark was star centerfielder Curtis Granderson.

Day One- April 18, on a beautiful Friday evening-- number 28 (borrowed from pitcher Santo Meises) ran from the dugout to a rise of cheers rippling through the 10,056 fans attending the game against the Burlington Bees. Before stretching he waved his bright white, bandaged right hand to greet the West Michigan attendees for their support.

"We found out Wednesday he was coming, but I didn't want to tell the guys too soon," DePastino said. "As soon as he walked into the clubhouse, their eyes lit up.

"Not only is he such a great player, but he comes into the locker room, walks up to everybody and introduces himself, even though they all know who he is. To me, that's class."

Assigned to West Michigan for rehab duty, the 6-foot-1 centerfielder put his hand to the test. He went 2-4 with a single and a triple, while displaying some good glove in Fifth Third's deep centerfield as well. His right middle finger, on which he fractured March 22 in a spring training game, bothered him a little, but he was able not only to bring up the attendance, but put a spark into the 'Caps lagging performance.

"It was almost like the first game out of spring training, because I hadn't seen live pitching yet," Granderson said. "I hadn't seen a breaking ball. I was a little anxious, but definitely happy with the results."

In his first at bat Granderson matched up against Bees starter Alexander Caldera with fire in his eyes for a flashback to what once was. With the count 2-2 Granderson poked a weak dribbler between Caldera and first baseman Clint Robinson. Though his hand wasn't a hundred percent, his legs sure were as he blazed across first base safety, just beating Robinson. Thus, his rehab began.

"I was a little late on fastballs," Granderson said. "I understand it'll happen that way— you can't expect to go from zero to 10 overnight. I was a little anxious and too passive."

Fans sported their Granderson/Tigers jerseys and would see some good baseball from their Whitecaps, but it wasn't enough, as the Bees would triumph in a 3-0 shutout.

Day Two- April 19, Granderson made his way down to Toledo to join the Mud Hens play against the Louisville Bats Saturday afternoon. Batting in his usual leadoff spot, once again, he went 2-4 with a single and a double. He felt no pain in his hand and roamed the outfield without any trouble. Though he had a strong performance, and top-pitching prospect Homer Bailey was on the hill, the Mud Hens couldn't find their groove and were shutout 5-0.

Day Three- April 20, Granderson would take a step back going 1-for-5 in a 10-7 loss to the Louisville Bats at Fifth Third Field. He felt good, but the soreness in his hand hit him a little. Tigers manager Jim Leyland wants him to get 20-25 at bats during this rehab stint. Knowing this, Granderson knows he was to return to the Mud Hens Tuesday.

Day Four- April 21, with an anxious crowd of 3,780 the Whitecaps welcomed back Granderson with open arms. Hoping to bounce back from a less than average performance April 20, Granderson came through, knocking in an RBI triple and scoring the winning run— in the bottom of the third— on a sacrifice fly in the ‘Caps 2-1 victory over the Beloit Snappers.

"Granderson's triple was a big boost, which got us on the scoreboard early. Now it's a matter of how he feels, a matter of when he feelsEven before the game most fans thought this could very well be Granderson's last game with the team before heading back to a Tigers team in dire need of his help.

"I think here or Toledo would be the same," he said. "I just need to get another of at-bats. Before we started this whole thing, everyone kept telling me, and I really like this idea, whenever you feel great, take one more day. And right now I feel pretty good.

"With that thought in process, if I stay with it, I will probably be here another day," Granderson added.

Despite going 1-4 with two strikeouts Granderson said this is the best he has felt since rehab and was really hoping he could get a few more at bats down in minor league ball so that he could fully get into groove and work out any kinks he thought necessary to his game.

Day Five- April 22, at 8 a.m. it was announced in all of the West Michigan media sources that Curtis Granderson was to play one more game for the Whitecaps before possibly heading back to Detroit to join the team against the Texas Rangers Wednesday night.

Before heading to work, Granderson decided to take a stop at the Riverside Middle School to talk to students about growing up. With a little time on his hands this was a move that was very important to him— seeing both his parents and sister are teachers themselves. In fact, Granderson himself is just one of 30 major league ball players to have a college degree. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 2002.

He fielded all sorts of questions and by the end of his time there the school truly felt the presence of a class act.

Back at the office, Granderson— wanting to accomplish Leyland's request of 20-25 at-bats— certainly knew playing in this game would let him reach that mark.

The 27-year-old centerfielder went out on a good note Tuesday night before 2,865 fans at Fifth Third ballpark. He was 1-3 with a single and a walk in a 5-3 ‘Caps win over the Snappers. Not too much action came his way on either side of the field, but seeing his confidence at the plate intrigued the mind that he is now ready to go back to the show.

West Michigan is sure surely miss Curtis Granderson. But on a good note, the Detroit Tigers get their centerfielder back and the possible piece that could turn this head-scratching season around.

Last year for Detroit, Granderson became part of the 20-20-20-20 club and was the second player in major league history to record 30 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a single season. The last player to do this was switch hitter Frank "Wildfire" Schulte in 1911 with the Chicago Cubs.

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