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Curtis Granderson: I'm here today because of Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson in 1952.

Jackie Robinson in 1952. Credit: AP

Curtis Granderson can easily tick off the far-off locales he’s visited as an ambassador for Major League Baseball: Korea, South Africa, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan, Italy.

And he can just as easily point out each country’s common reaction to the interlocking white “NY” logo on his cap.

“Parts of these places don’t really realize how big baseball is,” Granderson said. “But the first thing I mention to them is ‘I play for the New York Yankees.’ And they stop, they go, ‘That’s baseball, right?’ They all know the New York Yankees no matter where I’ve been all over the world. They know the NY Logo on the hat, they know the pinstripes. Even if they don’t know the game, the legacy and the tradition of the pinstripes is worldwide.“

Granderson was speaking to students at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn on Monday to help celebrate Jackie Robinson Day. Along with Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and catcher Francisco Cervelli, Granderson spoke and then joined the teenagers for a viewing of the just-released Robinson biopic “42.”

“He’s one of the best players to take field, but he’s also one of the best people in the game,” Cashman said. “So we’re not surprised whatsoever about the positive impact when he came over here in the New York area off the field.”

The event, part of Granderson’s Grand Kids Foundation series of programs, emphasized Robinson’s enduring legacy. Granderson said he was proud to be an ambassador of Robinson’s message.

“You talk about just the definition of ambassador, and it’s growing and promoting what it is that you love,” Granderson told Newsday. “And I love baseball, I love Jackie Robinson and that’s the reason why I’m here today, because of Jackie. If Jackie didn’t do what he did over 65 years ago, we aren’t having this interview right now.”

But Robinson’s impact went beyond breaking the color barrier in baseball in 1947, becoming the first black player when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“He helped open up all the equality lines, fight to eliminate the color and discrimination all those different things,” Granderson said. “That’s why you see the Yankees have Japanese ballplayers, Dominican ballplayers, Venezuelan ballplayers, just to name a few, all because of what he did.

“And sure enough we’re here at Abraham Lincoln High School, a very diverse school here in Brooklyn, home of where Jackie broke in.”

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