BRADENTON, Fla. – The smile has seemingly never left Andrew McCutchen during the first two days of his return to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It’s three days into spring training. Full-squad workouts don’t begin until Monday, so the 36-year-old outfielder doesn’t even have to be here.
Yet McCutchen checked into camp Thursday on the second day of pitchers and catchers working out. It’s hard to recall the last time someone was this happy to be hanging out at Pirate City.
McCutchen was asked Friday if he felt he was back home after signing with the Pirates last month as a free agent five years after being traded. Since his outstanding nine-year run with the Pirates that included the National League MVP award in 2013 and five All-Star Game berths, McCutchen has played for the San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers.
“I feel like – I don’t know the word I’m looking for – but you go somewhere new, people know you only from what they’ve seen from afar,” McCutchen said. “Maybe they have this perception of you, of the person you are, the player you are. You might hit those boxes all in certain ways but at the same time, it’s a little different. Here, I feel like this is the way it is supposed to be. It’s good, man. It’s good.
“Now I don’t have to go on my maps to find the stadium. I know where it is. Some years, I went the entire spring training not knowing where I was going. But, yeah, it feels right.”
It just seems right to see McCutchen back in the Pirates’ clubhouse and on the fields at Pirate City. It suddenly doesn’t feel like he had been gone since 2018.
“I think he’s happy to be here. We’re happy he’s here,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “It’s one of those situations that it’s a two-way street. We wanted to add to our club, and he wanted to be here. It’s nice to see him around here with a smile on his face. I think that’s really good for us as an organization and for our young players, and overall, good for the city.”
While McCutchen won’t go through his first official workout until next week, he reminisced about his first-ever day of spring training. That came back in 2006 after he had been selected in the first round of the previous year’s amateur draft following his graduation from high school in Fort Meade, Fla.
Andrew McCutchen has come quite a long way in 17 years.
“I just remember warming up and I was skipping and jumping as high as I possibly could,” McCutchen said with a laugh. “Then we were doing a little running and I was trying to be first. I just remember some (veteran players) had smirks on their faces wondering what I was trying to prove.
“It turned out I didn’t have to prove anything. Just go out and play. Most guys were going through the motions trying to get ready for the season and I was trying to make the team. But I was 19.”
Now he’s 36 and happier than ever to be in a Pittsburgh Pirates’ uniform.
“Just the whole thing is good,” McCutchen said.