Welcome back to your hometown of Chicago.

They say it’s bad to cheers with just water. Since I just got back from Spain we’ll say, “Salut!”

You have a great reason to be drinking water.

[I first started working with] the First Lady Michelle Obama when she initially did her “Let’s Move!” campaign back in 2009. Childhood obesity has become a major issue in the United States. Now the life expectancy for kids is actually less than their parents. One of the most obese states in the U.S. is also the state where my mom and dad grew up and where my sister teaches, Mississippi. So when asked to be a part of “Let’s Move!” I was all for it. Along with the Partnership for a Healthier America, the First Lady recently kicked off her “Drink Up” campaign to promote drinking more water. It’s actually a really neat thing because it’s very simple. Just drinking more water can do lots of great things for you. First, your body is 70 percent water. Your brain needs water to function and your body needs water so it can move and stay hydrated. Water has always been a very big thing for me.

Not many people can say they work with the First Lady. Do you guys text?

That’s funny. My mom’s like, “So are we going to do a commercial with her? When’s that gonna happen? Are they coming over for dinner? Let’s get it all in!” Ironically I’ve met her only once and I’ve met President Barack Obama twice. Hopefully now as they launch the new campaign the interaction will continue.

Was there anything that caught you off guard from meeting Michelle in person?

How tall she was. She was a lot taller than I expected. When I took my photo with her we were eye-to-eye. I was like, “Whoa!”

A lot of your foundation’s charity work helps children. You’re 32. Is having kids of your own on your radar?

Yeah, ultimately one day I will have kids but I don’t think there’s a magic number. It’s going to happen whenever it does. Looking back there was this imaginary timeline. Graduate high school, go to college, find the person of your dreams, get married and have kids all by the age of 25. That is great if it happens that way but at the same time it wasn’t necessarily the right timetable for everybody, including myself. My dad had me when he was 30, my mom was 28 so I’m not too far off but timetable-wise I’m not 100 percent sure when it will happen. Especially because my career is still up in the air with what’s going to happen.

How does it feel to be a free agent?

It’s the first time that I actually have control of what I want to do and it’s awesome. This is my first year of free agency and all players want to get to this point. You’ve worked hard and now you get a chance for it to pay off. I’m excited. There’s obviously going to be some nervousness to it but overall it’s fun and I’m looking forward to it.

What are your personal goals for the coming year?

The big thing career-wise is to continue to move forward with the ultimate goal of ending up with a team that I can win a championship with. I’ve enjoyed my time with Detroit and also New York and who knows what those two teams will bring me next year or if it will it be one of the other 28 remaining teams.

There’s been speculation the White Sox might grab you. Would you want to come back and play in your hometown?

You know what? A lot of people think that I was a White Sox fan growing up because I went to more White Sox games and I grew up on the South Side but the fact is I was actually a Braves fan growing up. In the early ‘90s when I was a kid that was the team that was really, really good. They were on TBS so I could see them everywhere in the country. I was a big fan. But in terms of the Cubs or the White Sox, my family is split between both. When I would come into town they’d have my jersey on with a Cubs or Sox hat so they’d be cheering for me but happy if we lost. I’m sure a lot of friends and family would be happy if I ended up playing with either one of the teams. But we’ll see!

How has fame affected your relationships?

In terms of meeting people, obviously I get introduced to a lot more people now than in the past. A lot of people want to get to know me more so you’re always filtering, entertaining and open to the idea but reserved at the same time. You have to learn how to do that because you don’t know what people’s interests are and I think that comes with time. I’m the type of person that sees how the initial conversations go and then from that point see if we continue. You can usually see right away if it’s gonna work out.

And the same goes for dating we’d imagine.

Yeah, the girl side of things has been interesting. A lot of people think it’s a lot bigger than what it is. The fact that I’m not 7 feet tall like a basketball player or 300 pounds like a football player makes it so I don’t stand out. I’ll get a lot of people that go, “You know, you look a lot like Curtis Granderson,” and I’m like, “Well, thanks!” Or unless someone says it they don’t know who I am. Then the buzz will start to pick up a little bit. But I can walk up and down the streets and most people won’t recognize me. Here I get recognized more by Detroit fans where as in New York I’ll walk by someone wearing a Yankee hat and a Yankee shirt and walk right by them. It’s weird.

Does it ever get old seeing people with your name on the back of their shirt? 

No. It really is so cool that out of all the jerseys the one they wanted to get was mine. That, being on a video game and seeing someone with my baseball card are the top three coolest things that have happened to me.

Why do you think some athletes are fan favorites more than others?

I think it depends on how accessible the person wants to be. There are some people who just want to go to the field, go home and not really want to be seen at all. Even going out to eat, shopping or doing errands they have somebody go out and do all of that stuff for them. I feel like I’m no different than anybody else, my job title is just different so the normal odds and ends and things that I would do anyways I’m going to do, like grocery shop and going to Bed Bath & Beyond. Bed Bath & Beyond is one of my favorite stores, they’ve got everything!

Do you use the coupons?

I just got one in the mail yesterday. $5 off of $15! It’s great!

What would you be doing if you weren’t playing baseball?

Eleven years ago before I got drafted I was set to do an internship with a sports agency here in Chicago so I would have probably done something in sports marketing. I knew I didn’t want to sit at a desk everyday. I always thought about getting into an apparel company, like New Balance or something like that would have been great. Selling shoes or helping to market shoes and eventually getting my masters. I really wanted to get it in finance but it now has changed to educational administration. That would certify me to teach yet keep me around student athletes because I don’t want to coach.

Do you pay attention to what fans write to you on social media?

I try to go through and respond to as much as I can but some things I just can’t get to all of the time. I’ll get comments and questions and try to help. At the same time with all of the good ones you do also get some negative ones sprinkled in so you try to filter through and I have to bite my tongue so much because of the position I’m in. A lot of people don’t realize that. Somebody can say whatever they want to you and whenever you respond negatively it gets blown up so you just have to kind of ignore it or let other fans do the work for you, which some of them do.

Who is your celebrity crush?

This is a new celeb crush that’s popped up and I don’t know what it is about her but I really like this girl. She just seems really chill and relaxed and cool and like we could probably go anywhere. It’s Rashida Jones. She’s very natural. There’s nothing major out there in the media about her but there’s nothing negative out there either.

Have you ever met her?

I never have but for some reason she’s popped up. Let’s hook it up!

What are you waiting for?

I don’t know where she’s at. Hook it up with Rashida! Get her to give me a shout!

Don’t you have an agent or someone who can figure that out for you?

That is actually something that a lot of people think, like, “If you want to meet someone does your agent or publicist call and set that up?” I had that happen indirectly once with someone who is now a really good friend of mine. Her name is Layla [El], she’s a WWE Diva. I met her when we were doing a tour during the World Series in 2006. We met some of the wrestlers and I got a chance to meet her and as I was leaving my publicist at the time said something to somebody and then the two of us ended up going to an award show in Detroit later that winter together. We stayed in touch and have hung out ever since.

Best concert you’ve been to?

The “Up in Smoke” concert with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Xzibit and Snoop at Allstate Arena. This would have been 2000. That was a really, really good one.

We’ve asked you once before but maybe your answer has changed. If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

Adding new people to the list is always a good thing. Let’s see now, who would I want to have a drink with?

Besides Rashida.

Yes, besides Rashida! I’ll do a male and a female. I’ve always had a crush on Mariah Carey but she’s taken now. Slightly jealous because Nick Cannon and I are the same age and we’re both on TV, that could have been me! So Mariah Carey would be my female choice. My male choice would be from one of my favorite shows. I really liked him a lot and it’s Martin Lawrence. I was watching “Martin” last night and I still watch it today whenever it’s on. No matter what mood I’m in “Martin” is always a good one for me. So those would be two good ones.

Visit Grand Kids Foundation to get involved with upcoming fundraisers. 


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