PITTSBURGH, PA — When Andrew McCutchen was playing High School in Fort Meade, Florida, he used to joke around with his coach that one day he would be in the Home Run Derby. Little did he know that it would come true in just his fourth season in the big leagues.
McCutchen texted his coach, John Sprandlin, to deliver him the news yesterday and ask an even bigger question.
“He told me congratulations,” McCutchen said. “And I was like, ‘You know what I’m going to ask.’ We used to always talk about when [I] was in High School and stuff. It would be kind of cool one day. And I was like, ‘Yeah. It would be cool.’ Just kind of joking.”
“I sent him a text and told him, ‘I do need a BP thrower.’ And he was like, ‘I can get loose real quick.’ It was pretty neat to get that opportunity just to go out there and have him there. Not only something pretty neat for myself, but something that will be neat for himself too. It’s going to be pretty awesome.”
Despite being named to his second All-Star game this season, signing a contract extension with the Pirates, leading his team in home runs (18), and leading the Major Leagues with a .359 average this season, McCutchen is humble. When asked if he ever thought this moment would have happened, with a huge smile his face said, ‘Honestly, no.’
“You look at the guys that are in the home run derby, they’re guys that hit 40, 50 home runs, they’re big guys,” McCutchen said. “They’re guys that can drive the ball 500 feet. I’m not that person that’s going to hit the ball 500 feet. Just not going to happen. I can hit some home runs. Just not that far. I never thought I’d be in a home run derby ever.”
“It’s a once in a lifetime chance.”
Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp texted McCutchen to tell him that Stanton was injured and that he needed a replacement for the National League. McCutchen said he had to talk himself into it, because at first he was hesitant.
The outfielder was honest about feeling nerves when the Home Run Derby takes place on Monday night. It’s a little bit of a different stage than he’s used to playing on.
“There’s no cage around you,” McCutchen said. “That’s the part that you’ve got to get used to, and you’ve got to get used to it pretty quick. I guess on top of 40,000-plus fans being there, and the whole U.S watching. That’s something else that’s a little different.”
“You’re going to be nervous regardless. I still get nervous before baseball games. I can only imagine how I’m going to feel when I step into that box. I’m just going to have a lot of fun with it. Not too many people can say they’ve done [it]. They can say they’ve been in an All-Star game, but not too many people can say they’ve been in a home run derby.”
McCutchen connected for his 17th and 18th home runs of the season on Sunday off San Francisco, giving fans a preview for Monday night. The outfielder isn’t a prototypical home run hitter. McCutchen’s homers this season are the most he’s taken into the All-Star break in his career. The 25-year-old is just five shy of his career-high 23 long balls which he hit over 572 at-bats last season.
Some may be worried that the home run derby will affect his swing in the second-half of the season. Both both Manager Clint Hurdle and McCutchen are confident it won’t.
“With my swing, there’s nothing that can really change,” McCutchen said. “It’s different from like a lefty. They have those long loopy swings. That can sometimes change them. With me and my swing, it’s pretty much short and quick. I don’t know how to swing under a ball and hit it up. I’m more of a kind of straight to it, quick through it kind of swing. If I hit 10 line drives, I just hit 10 line drives.”
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “I have trouble using the word honor, but I guess it is. I just chatted with him in here a little bit ago and I told him to ‘Go get it. Go embrace it.’ There is a lot of school of thought, ‘oh it will wreck his swing.’ It’s not going to wreck his swing. He’s a smart kid. Go there, look for the ball up in the zone and put your good swing on it and hit it out of the ballpark. Just like you’ve done most of your career. Just another opportunity for Pittsburgh to be represented, the organization, the fan base. Really cool. Happy for him.”
Not only will McCutchen get much deserved attention for his MVP type first half season, but the Pittsburgh Pirates will be on center stage as well. The Pirates first half of the season has been an exciting one. The club enters the break with a 48-37 record — a season-high 11 games over .500 — as well as sitting a game up in first place in the National League Central.
“That will take care of itself, the recognition,” McCutchen said. “I don’t mind staying under the radar for the whole season. The next thing you know, they’ll look up and we’re in first. That will be fine with me. I could careless about recognition. I just want to go out. I’m doing it because it’s fun.”