Andrew McCutchen is the shining star of a Pirates team that been sheltered in darkness for nearly a generation. As well-rounded off the field as he is between the white lines, the 23-year-old center fielder is also the club’s Renaissance man. McCutchen, who has hit .291/.367/.471 since debuting last June, talked about his love of the game, his artistic side, and his hopes for a Bucs revival, prior to a recent game at PNC Park. Fittingly, a teammate strummed a blues-tinged guitar at a nearby locker as he spoke.
David Laurila: Yesterday was your one-year anniversary in the big leagues. How has your career gone thus far?
Andrew McCutchen: It’s been pretty good. I’m satisfied with where I’m at right now, and I’m satisfied with the year I had last year, but there’s still room for improvement and that’s a good thing. I’m doing well so far and am just going to try to continue to keep doing that.
DL: Have there been any surprises you since you got here?
AM: No, nothing has been surprising, really. I’m just staying within myself, and having played in spring training with the big-league club every spring training really helped me when I got here. I had somewhat faced big-league pitching, which helped me to calm down a bit, and settle down, and I’ve been able to do that since I’ve been here. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.
DL: How long did it take for the feeling of “Wow, I’m in the big leagues” to wear off?
AM: I still do it every day. It’s something that you look at when you’re a little kid, and then you’re here, so you never want take it for granted. I still get those feelings when I’m in the outfield. It’s around the fifth or sixth inning and I’m going, “Man, I’m here in the big leagues,” so it’s just one of those things that you really appreciate. There’s nothing like it.
You play for the love of the game. This is your job, and you do get paid for it, but that should be a bonus. That’s happening with me, so I look at it as being a bonus—getting paid for doing something I love doing. It’s good to be able to come here and just really enjoy it, and the more you enjoy it, the more fun it is.
DL: Who are you away from the field?
AM: I look at myself as being a guy that does what everyone else does, outside of work. I’m just kind of a plain old simple young guy who likes to go out and have fun. I play video games and sit down and watch TV. That’s what I do, especially in the offseason.
DL: I understand that you’re pretty artistic.
AM: Yeah. I like drawing; I like writing; I like music. Any of those things. We have Evan Meek over there [across the clubhouse], playing the guitar, and that’s cool. I could listen to that every day, if I wanted to. It’s one of those things that I love doing; it’s something that keeps me away from everything else. It just kind of calms me down.
DL: What about the writing—do you get a chance to do much of that during the season?
AM: No. I’d have to say that’s more of an off-season thing for me. Usually, during the year, I don’t do too much, but in the offseason when I’m just sitting around the house and don’t have too much going on, that’s pretty much what I’ll do—any of those three things.
DL: What do you write?
AM: Anything. Whatever comes up in my head. Who knows? I think about anything and write it down on a piece of paper. Expressing yourself that way is pretty cool.
DL: A few players have written books in recent years, while others, like Fernando Perez, have written articles and essays. Could you see yourself taking writing to that level?
AM: I think I could. I could see myself doing that one day, maybe. Who knows? I mean, I’m interested in it, and it’s something that would be cool, but…I enjoy it, you know.
DL: Is having your image be that of an artistic-minded baseball player, as opposed to simply a baseball player, a good thing?
AM: Oh yeah, most definitely. I like people to know me beyond just being a baseball player. For them to know those things as well is good. I don’t want to go down as just a great baseball player. I want to go down as more than just that. It would be good for people to know more about me and more about what I do.
DL: Should players be more open about whom they are off the field?
AM: I guess it depends on what the situation is, or what the subject may be. If it’s just everyday life, then yeah. But other than that, you don’t want everybody knowing your life. To a certain extent you do, but you still want to have your privacy, as well.
DL: Last night, I asked a random Pirates fan what he’d want to know about you, and he suggested that I ask what it’s like playing in Pittsburgh and not winning, and if you’d rather be somewhere else. How would you answer him?
AM: I think that it should be more than just not winning. I think the question should be, “How does it feel to play in Pittsburgh, and wanting to win?—not “not winning.” I believe that we look at things backwards here. I think we should look at “How do we win,” not “How do we keep losing?” I believe that we should be more positive. We are positive—our team is positive—and I believe that the only way we can turn this around, to where the fans can actually believe in us, is if we actually win, so it’s more than talking. It’s more than just talking about it; you have to be about it as well. We can say that we have a good team, or we can say that things are changing, but numbers don’t lie. Until that changes, it’s the way the [attitude] outside of here will be. All I can say for that is that we just have to stay positive. That goes for the fans as well. They have to just hang in there with us, because things will eventually turn around.
DL: What do fans maybe not understand about a player’s perspective on the game?
AM: It’s a difficult game; it is that. And it’s harder when you come here, sometimes, and we may not have a lot of people who came to support us. Or the people who did come to support us…I remember that there were times last year when we played and people were chanting, “Let’s go Steelers,” and “Let’s go Penguins,” and I have nothing against the Steelers or the Penguins—they’re two good teams—but it would be good to hear them say, “Let’s go Pirates” every night.
Not that the fans don’t support us. This year they’ve been awesome. I commend the fans that do come out and support us every day. This is a good town; it’s the best city. We just need to turn things around, because the fans are here for us and if we start winning, I’m sure they’ll come. We just have to have a lot of fun with it and stay positive. We have to just keep going out there and keep battling every day.