Black Players Continued a Mentoring Tradition Amid a Pandemic

Black Players Continued a Mentoring Tradition Amid a Pandemic

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When Maybin first reached the major leagues with the Tigers at 20 in 2007, he said older players such as Gary Sheffield, Thames, Young and Granderson took him under their wings. They told him to “be seen, not heard” — a common piece of advice Black players give each other in professional baseball.

“They were teaching me from young age how I needed to move,” said Maybin, now 33, who helped found the Players Alliance. “And I didn’t realize it until I got older. Then you’re like, ‘Damn, these dudes were really trying to help me make sure I didn’t stub my toe on the way.’”

The acts of kindness by one teammate in particular during Maybin’s rookie season have forever stuck with him. Granderson, who was 26 at the time, let Maybin sleep on his couch in Detroit for a week after his call-up, then took him out to eat in every new city they visited that season.

“This dude took me everywhere,” Maybin said. “Everywhere.”

Granderson took the mentorship tradition to heart throughout his career. He sent equipment to minor league, college or youth players who were in need and would bring teammates along to meals. He hosted an annual cookout, mostly for his Black teammates, at his cousin’s home in Florida during spring training.

“It was stuff that was happening all around us that you just didn’t say was mentoring,” he said. “It’s just what you did.”

The person who did that for Granderson was Young, who also gave younger Black players bats, DVDs of “Chappelle’s Show” to watch on the road, and jewelry after Young signed a four year $28.5-million with the Tigers in 2002.

When Young first reached the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996, he said, he received similar treatment from multiple players: Royce Clayton, who always took him to lunch; Ray Lankford, who bought him suits so he could dress like a big leaguer; and Brian Jordan, who always offered advice. And when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds two years later, Young’s mentor was Jeffrey Hammonds, who often invited him to his room after games to have a drink and talk shop for two to three hours at a time.

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