Andrew McCutchen returns to Pittsburgh wearing different jersey but with Steel City still in his heart
PITTSBURGH Andrew McCutchen needed just one word, which he repeated over and over on Friday, to sum up how he felt about being back at PNC Park for the first time since being traded to the Giants in January: Awesome.”I got to go home to my house, sleep in my own bed,” he said. “Woke up a couple times because the baby woke up. It was awesome. Good to be home.”Not only is this the first time McCutchen will enter PNC Park as a visiting player, but it’s also the 2013 National League MVP’s first trip back to the city, where he and his wife maintain their home, in four months. Asked if he had done anything special since arriving in Pittsburgh the day before, McCutchen responded with a grin.FAGAN: McCutchen’s legacy at all-time Pirates great is rock-solid “I went to The Oven,” he said, referring to one of DJ LeMahieu Jersey his favorite pizza joints around the city. “My son had a [doctor's] appointment today and had to get a couple shots, and that’s never fun.”If he felt any nerves being back in western Pennsylvania to play his former ballclub, he didn’t show it and instead maintained that “baseball is baseball” and that he felt comfortable playing for the Giants, saying his new teammates and manager have been very welcoming.While McCutchen displayed the calm and collected demeanor that made him a fan favorite in the Steel City from the time he was called up to the big leagues in 2009, outside the packed media room the atmosphere was markedly different. Hours before first pitch, fans donning his familiar black and yellow No. 22 jersey walked along Mazeroski Way, West General Robinson Street and Federal Street, the three thoroughfares that surround PNC Park, while a feeling of nostalgia mixed with anticipation hung in the air.”It was sad, just really sad,” Yvonne Shenuski of Williamsport, Pa., said of when she found out the Pirates had traded her favorite player for pitcher Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Brian Reynolds. “I was shocked we let him go.”Shenuski is a lifelong Pirates fan and traveled the 3 1/2 hours from Williamsport, bringing along a four-foot sign that reads, “Williamsport Loves #22 Andrew McCutchen,”to see him play albeit in a different Nolan Arenado Jersey jersey.”I’m still sad, but it’s good to see him. I’ll always think of him as a Pirate,” she said.McCutchen’s accomplishments in Pittsburgh are well documented. On top of winning MVP in 2013, McCutchen was a five time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove recipient. More importantly, he was indispensable in breaking the Pirates’ 20-year playoff drought, leading Pittsburgh to winning records and the postseason in 2013, 2014 and 2015.Those seasons, and the excitement those McCutchen-led teams exuded, brought baseball back to a place of prominence in a part of the country that had been dominated by football and ice hockey for decades.When asked if being back in the city he helped revive made him step back and consider all he had accomplished here, he answered as only he could.”Not nece sarily.I gue s I haven’t thought that far ahead because I’m still playing the game of baseball,” he said. “I don’t look at anything as a closed book, I just look at it as another chapter, so I’m still making the book right now.”McCutchen said he still stays in touch with his former teammates, mainly via text, and that he’d already spoken to a few since arriving in Pittsburgh. One such teammate, it seems, is Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who popped his head into the media room as McCutchen spoke four hours prior to game time. It’s no surprise McCutchen is universally loved by teammates past and present, as evidenced by the nearly two dozen hugs he received from Pirates players and staff when he came out to take batting practice. His sincerity, kindne s and thoughtfulne s have shone through in countle s interviews, TV appearances and personal interactions since he came to Pittsburgh as a dreadlocked 22-year-old with the weight of high expectations on his shoulders.All of that makes his first game against his former club that much more emotional, at least for the fans.”There were definitely some sleeple s nights and a lot of tears,” Robbie Leslie of Morgantown, W. Va., said of his 7-year-old son Braxton, who has been a Pirates fan since he knew what baseball was, according to his father. “We usually come to a game in June, but [Braxton] wanted to come to this one [to see McCutchen].”Robbie, his wife and Braxton wore custom-made matching T-shirts for McCutchen’s homecoming to show their support for the player who meant so much to them. Instead of using a black-and-yellow color scheme, however, the Leslies chose black and orange in honor of McCutchen’s new home. The back of each shirt reads:”With San Francisco on his shirt. And Pittsburgh in his heart. Andrew McCutchen,”the line McCutchen himself used to close out his article in The Player’s Tribune thanking Pittsburgh after he was traded.”Hopefully tonight is a welcome home for him,” Robbie Leslie said. “A thank you.”Judging from the reception he received from the mob https://www.rockiesedges.com/colorado-rockies/ian-desmond-jersey of fans screaming for autographs and pictures as he jogged from the outfield to the dugout following the Giants’ batting practice se sion, which he indulged for a solid 15 minutes before heading to the locker room, it’s safe to a sume the Pirate faithful are glad to see him back.For his part, McCutchen claimed he had not have given any thought to what his emotional state will be when he walks to the plate in the first inning when the Pirates are set to play a short video tribute to him, claiming he likes to live in the moment.”If I cry, I cry. Big whoop,” he said. “If I don’t, I don’t.”While he may not shed any tears as he prepares to face the Pirates’ Jameson Taillon, there are sure to be waterworks in the stands, as fans of the Pirates will have a chance to say thank you to, and show their appreciation for, a man who brought a long-dead baseball town back to life.