Heading into the 2014 season, the New York Mets set a lofty goal: 90 wins. The Mets haven’t had a 90-win season since 2006, which was also the last time they made the postseason. To reach that milestone in 2014, the Amazins’ are counting on new centerfielder Curtis Granderson.
Granderson spent the last four seasons with the Yankees after breaking into the bigs with the Tigers in 2004. On one hand, the move from the Bronx to Queens is an easy one: Granderson gets to stay in New York while playing for a new team. But it’s also going to be tough. It's his first time in the National League, and the Mets have struggled the past five seasons to find any sense of on-field identity. A lot has to come together for the Mets to hit 90 wins this season – and Granderson is ready to contribute. (But he might be headed to the DL: Granderson left yesterday’s game against the Diamondbacks with injuries to his knee, rib cage, and forearm.)
Granderson stopped by the Lids store in Times Square recently to talk about New Era’s “Home of the Authentic” campaign. SI Kids caught up with Granderson — a Sports Illustrated Kids reader from way back! — at the event to talk about hats, the differences between playing at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and how the Mets can reach their 90-win goal this season.
Did you wear hats a lot as a kid?
I did. I wore them a lot, and I remember getting my first fitted hat, and that was the thing. Everybody was looking for a fitted hat. I had no clue what my size was, but I knew I wanted a fitted hat. Snapbacks were cool, and it's actually interesting that they're coming back because once the fitted hat came, that's what everybody wanted. And now I see a lot of people with the snapbacks. And even the trucker-bill front ones are now coming back.
Did you have a favorite hat as a kid?
I remember I had a wool Lakers hat. I don't remember who made it, but I remember getting it one day and it was all wool all around. And that was when everyone still wore the tag out. So I had my tag out. Why? I had no clue. I just knew that's what everybody did!
People keep the sticker on them now.
Now, it's the sticker, yeah. So I think it just evolved to the sticker. Back then it was the tag, now it's the sticker. So, why? I'm not even sure if anyone knows the answer to those questions.
Yeah. There are so many Mets hats — do you have a favorite?
I like the one with Mr. Met. The one we had in Spring Training that had Mr. Met on it was really cool. I finally got a chance to meet him today. That was cool. I've been looking forward to it. It's cool to have a mascot. I had one in Detroit with Paws, I didn't have one with the Yankees, now I've got another one again with the Mets, so I'm excited. I always liked mascots.
And that hat's really great because you never see mascots on hats.
Exactly. You might as well put him out there, you know? And hopefully we get a chance to play a game in it. We've only had practice in it so far.
So what was it like walking on to Citi Field as a Met?
It was awesome. The fan ovation was amazing. The crowd participation was awesome. The energy in Citi Field was top-notch. Unfortunately we didn't get a victory the way everybody wanted to, but we got a lot of baseball left to play and it was a great sign of things to come. Take away all the positives and be ready to roll out there and play the rest of the season.
What's it going to be like for you when the Subway Series happens and you have to go back to Yankee Stadium?
Yeah, it's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to it. First, to get a chance to be with some teammates that have become friends. One of the cool things about baseball, I got a chance to play with people all over the world, and some of these guys, some of the greatest athletes in the world, including Derek Jeter, are people that I can call and text and go to dinner with, and that's kind of neat, to look back and think of that. This is someone I grew up watching, and now I have a chance to be his teammate, and now I get a chance to play against him. So, it's going to be fun and, obviously, the Subway Series, as a Yankee, was very fun and exciting and everybody looked forward to it, and now as a Met it's going to be just as equally as fun and exciting to be on the other side of things. And to get a chance to do both, I think, is going to be very rare.
What are the differences between playing at Yankee Stadium's outfield versus Citi Field? What kind of adjustment period is there?
Right away, the big thing that I noticed is the sun is typically in left field at Yankee Stadium to start, and at Citi Field it's in right field. For whatever reason. It just could be the way the shapes of the stadiums are set up. The fans are right on top of you, the fans are nice and loud. There's a couple little quirks and differences in right-center field in Citi Field that aren't there, necessarily, in Yankee Stadium. Not as much foul territory on both sides, which is good and bad. Good defensively, bad offensively. But other than that, nothing too, too crazy that I've noticed so far.
The Mets are saying the goal for this season is 90 wins. What do you have to do as a team — and what do you have to do individually — to make that a reality?
Well, we as a team, from top to bottom, and that includes our front office staff all the way down to the youngest guy on the team, have to just do the things we know we're capable of doing. If you have to go out there and be a reliever and make a pitch here, or if you go to be a base stealer and steal a base there or a defensive replacement and do this or an offensive guy and do that, just do the little things. Take care of your home, and once you start to take care of your home and your home and my home and his home, next thing you know we got a nice little village and we're starting to get to where we want to be. No one needs to go ahead and be Superman on this team, or Captain America as David Wright happens to be on the team. He's going to do his thing, and now we just need to get alongside him and push forward and we can get to where we need to be.
You seem like a pretty positive guy. How can kids who play baseball — or any sport — stay positive even if things aren't going their way?
The big thing is realize that tomorrow is a new day. No matter how good you were the day before or how bad you were the day before, the great thing about most of the sports that we play, you get a chance to go back out there and do it all over again the next day, whether is baseball, basketball, football, hockey, track, swimming, bowling, all sports that I got a chance to play as a young kid and that a lot of young kids are playing today. When we don't have a scheduled game, we get a chance to go out with our friends. I can call you up, I can text you, I can email you, Hey, let's go to the field, you bring your bat, I'll bring a couple baseballs, I got a couple more buddies, we play again. And all those different things keep it fun, you get a chance to improve every day. As long as you're laughing out there and enjoying the time with your friends and family, that's the big thing that you want to take from it. As long as you can do it, all the opportunities are endless.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and space.
Photo: John Minchillo/AP Photo, Al Bello/Getty Images