For his first nine seasons in Major League Baseball, McCutchen was snagging fly balls and ripping extra-base hits in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. So far in 2023, it looks like he never left.
Now back with the Pirates after five seasons away, the 36-year-old outfielder has jumped out to a hot start, batting .375 with nine hits, three RBIs, two stolen bases, seven walks and a home run in eight games played. His performance has helped his team jump out to a hot start of its own with a 6-3 record.
Friday against the Chicago White Sox was McCutchen’s first game as a Pirate in Pittsburgh since he was traded in January 2018 (to San Francisco, and later to the New York Yankees, followed by three seasons with Philadelphia and last year with Milwaukee). And in his first at-bat, the grateful PNC Park crowd treated him to a resounding and lengthy standing ovation.
Thank you Pittsburgh. This meant the 🌎 to me❤️. You ARE the difference! https://t.co/883Nzw7imc
— Andrew McCutchen (@TheCUTCH22) April 8, 2023
He then proceeded to single to right field, and added another single in the third inning on the way to a 13-9 victory. The following day, McCutchen recorded three hits in four at-bats, including his first home run of the season.
CUTCH HAS HOMERED AT PNC THIS IS NOT A DRILL pic.twitter.com/AIQTfct9XW
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) April 9, 2023
“I was trying to keep my feelings in check up there, but at the same time, I didn’t want to suppress them,” McCutchen said after Friday’s game, according to MLB.com, admitting he had to hold back tears.
He said one particular moment behind the scenes stood out to him: “Man, I tell you, it was something walking and going past the visiting clubhouse and I was like, ‘Thank God.'”
McCutchen had every right to soak in the experience for all it was worth. Some of his best baseball memories came as a Pirate: all of his five All-Star appearances (2011-2015), his NL MVP (2013), his Gold Glove (2012), his four Silver Slugger awards (2012-2015), his Roberto Clemente Award (2015).
Yet never a self-centered player, he’d be sure to also point to Pittsburgh’s three consecutive postseason appearances (2013-2015), with him as the focal point of the lineup, snapping a drought that dated back to 1992. Pittsburgh hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2015, but with a rejuvenated McCutchen back in the fold and a successful first week and a half to the season, the Pirates are dreaming big.
McCutchen craves postseason success for himself and for the city of Pittsburgh, but throughout a game he’s reminded each time he looks at his right arm Who is more important than baseball. On his right forearm he wears a yellow armband with a simple cross stitched in black. And in each ear is a cross earring.
“This game is amazing and it is important, and I realize that, but God is more important than the game,” McCutchen said when a guest on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2019.
It’s a lesson he learned from his parents at a young age. Both of them grew stronger in faith when Andrew was an infant and married when he was 5. His father began as a youth counselor at a church, eventually becoming a minister, while his mother sang in the choir.
“God is the main thing,” McCutchen remembers his father telling him. “It’s good to have other interests, but know that no matter what happens, God is all you need. All your gifts are gifts from Him.”
McCutchen has since made his faith in Christ his own, keeping the main thing the main thing, as his father instructed many years ago. Unashamed to speak about Jesus, he’s rested in the Bible verse Romans 8:28 during all the triumphs as well as all the pressures of being a baseball star.
“That’s definitely something I’ve realized in my successes and my failures, … Jesus’ love never changes,” McCutchen said in 2020. “It doesn’t matter how well I do or how bad I do, His love for me never, never changes and it never will.”
McCutchen knows he has the love of the city of Pittsburgh, which he earned through years of production with the Pirates. He also knows he has the love of Christ. That, however, was nothing but a free gift from God.
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McCutchen and the Pirates will host a three-games series against the defending-champion Houston Astros (4-6) beginning Monday. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. ET as Pittsburgh looks to pull even with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.
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