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Curtis Granderson brings positive attitude to kids with new book

Curtis Granderson reads his book,

Curtis Granderson reads his book, "All You Can Be: Learning & Growing Through Sports," at Eugene Auer Memorial Elementary School in Lake Grove. (Nov. 29, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/Mario Gonzalez

Coming off a career year and a fourth-place finish in the AL MVP voting, you'd think Curtis Granderson would want to take a break.

Think again.

Granderson recently returned from a trip to Taiwan as an MLB ambassador; his fifth time overseas in the past six years, including trips to Europe, South Africa, China and New Zealand.

He's become one of baseball's go-to guys for offseason excursions, and it hasn't been by accident.

"The first time it ended up happening was in 2006, I was going to get an opportunity to play in an exhibition in Japan and it fell through," Granderson said. "They asked if I wanted to go into Europe instead and I said 'Of course.' I was just more interested in getting the chance to travel the world, and here was an opportunity to do it."

Granderson has also taken an active role in the community at home. He recently released his second children's book, "All You Can Be: Learning & Growing Through Sports."

The book includes illustrations by students from New York City's public schools and photos from Granderson's childhood, his favorite being a shot of him in his basketball jersey. Granderson laughs about it, saying, "I feel like I'm the strongest guy in the world, but my biceps are the same width as my forearms."

"I remember when I was in Detroit and we did the first book," Granderson said. "I met the artist who did the cover, and her parents came up to me and said 'Oh my God it's amazing how much more outspoken she is. Now [with] her confidence, she wants to get involved in so many more things. It's really neat for the kids to have a chance to be in a book."

Granderson stresses avoiding gangs and drugs frequently throughout the book. In the "Be a Leader" chapter -- he calls them "innings" -- , Granderson writes, "If you look around, there are other leaders in your community, some negative and some positive. Gangs are leaders. But do you want to follow them? I didn't. People who do drugs are leaders, too, but do you want to follow them? Of course not!"

Granderson said his focus on avoiding gangs and drugs was a product of both his upbringing, and the pressures his readership will find growing up.

"It was always around, temptation to go that route, to wear the different colors, to fit in," Granderson said. "That's the reason I wanted to put it in my book, to let kids know that I dealt with a lot of that same stuff."

He also goes in-depth about keeping a positive attitude. The centerfielder stresses the importance of having fun - the theme of the first chapter - and laughing.

In college at Illinois-Chicago, Granderson was told by his coach to stop thinking so much when at the plate or on the field. Granderson embraced this mantra -- "Don't think, have fun" -- by writing it on the bill of his cap.

Even though people in the stands can't see the slogan on his Yankees hat, it's clear by watching the centerfielder with pals Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher in the outfield that he still plays with that approach.

"Gardner's like the little bulldog in the cartoon, and then Swisher's the big bulldog," Granderson said. "The little bulldog is always nipping at the big one, and it's just funny to watch them go at it. And every time we have a pitching change where we have to go to centerfield, we always have a nice little 30 seconds of a laugh/semi-fight before it's time to go back to work."

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