Andrew McCutchen knew his return to Pittsburgh was going to be emotional. He’d even publicly prepared himself for the possibility of tears. However, the former Pirates outfielder, who won an MVP in 2013 and helped the franchise stop a two-decade string of losing seasons, probably wasn’t completely prepared for how big the moment truly was.
When the now San Francisco Giants outfielder stepped to the plate in the first inning of Friday’s game at PNC Park, he was showered with love. The game was delayed for nearly two minutes as McCutchen absorbed a standing ovation and acknowledged the fanbase that supported him for nine years and never wanted to see him leave.
McCutchen would go on to strikeout during his at-bat on a called strike three. The Pirates fans even had his back on that, directing boos at the umpires. McCutchen finished the game 1 for 5 with two strikeouts. His lone hit was a seventh-inning double against Michael Feliz. The Giants would lose the game 11-2, but McCutchen couldn’t have felt like he lost after that reception.
When an All-Star player returns to the city where he or she became a star, it doesn’t always go this well. Many times they are greeted by boos, because many times it was their decision to leave. For McCutchen, that wasn’t the case. His bond with Pittsburgh was one of the strongest between athlete and community in sports. That was clearly evidenced in the affection that was shown by both sides Friday, and will no doubt continue all weekend.
Why did the Pirates trade Andrew McCutchen?
Coming off disappointing seasons in 2016 and 2017, the Pirates decided early on that 2018 wasn’t going to be their year either. That’s at least part of the reason why they traded ace Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros on Jan. 14, and followed up by trading McCutchen to San Francisco one day later.
The other part, of course, is money. That’s what it always boils down to for a Pirates franchise that’s never been a big spender. McCutchen was entering the final season of a team friendly seven-year, $65.25M extension signed prior to the 2012 season. In the Pirates’ eyes, putting together another extension that would entice McCutchen to stay wasn’t going to be realistic.
How did the Pirates honor Andrew McCutchen?
In the middle of the first inning, the Pirates aired a special video tribute to McCutchen on the PNC Park scoreboard.
How did Andrew McCutchen feel leading up to his Pittsburgh return?
“You can’t anticipate how you’re going to feel,” McCutchen said. “I’m going to go there and be in the moment and let the emotions be what they are. You’re ready for it to get here, but at the same time, you try to live in the moment.”
“If I cry, I cry. Big whoop. You’re supposed to. And I if I don’t, I don’t.”
There may have been some tears in there. It was difficult to tell. It was definitely a special moment.
How did McCutchen feel after his return to PNC Park?
Overwhelmed and overjoyed.
McCutchen also had kind things to say about Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli extended the ovation by stalling for time.
“Cervelli did a good job, just giving me that moment, giving me the time. I told him I was ready to go but he shook his head no, so I was able to step back and continue to be in the moment.He gave it to me and I appreciated it. That is something you don’t want to rush through.”
What’s the immediate outlook for McCutchen and the Pirates?
McCutchen has one year left on his contract before he’ll become a free agent. The Giants had envisioned him providing a jolt to their lineup, but so far his performance has been underwhelming. Coming into Friday’s game he was hitting .250/.377/.379 with three homers and 14 RBIs through 36 games. The Giants are currently 19-20 and figure to be wild-card contenders if they can get healthy, so McCutchen will likely finish the season in San Francisco.
The Pirates are rebuilding on the fly, and are having surprising success so far this season. It won’t be easy to maintain, but perhaps the immediate future will be brighter than anyone expected.
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