Baseball is a game that demands extraordinary skills—some explosive and others more subtle. Few players have combined this range of ability in a more exciting way than Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates. When he’s standing still, he seems to somehow be in motion. When he moves at full speed, he appears to glide, though he covers extraordinary ground in the blink of an eye. But it’s when Andrew flicks his bat through the hitting zone that his talents truly come alive. Regardless of the result, the action itself takes practically your breath away. This is his story…

GROWING UP

Andrew Stefan McCutchen was born on October 10, 1986, in Fort Meade, Florida. (Click here for a complete listing of today's sports birthdays.) His parents, Lorenzo and Petrina, were teenagers, still in high school. Lorenzo was a star of the Fort Meade High School baseball, basketball and football teams. Petrina was a top-notch volleyball player. She earned grant-in-aid money to attend Polk Community College, while Lorenzo earned a football scholarship to Carson-Newman College in Tennessee. They shared parenting chores as much as possible for the first five years of Andrew’s life. 

Lorenzo and Petrina were finally married in 1991 and also became deeply involved in the Peaceful Believers Church in Fort Meade. Lorenzo worked as a youth counselor, while Petrina took a job with the local Sherriff’s Department. They had another child, a girl named Lauren.

Soon Andrew was showing signs that he would eclipse both of his parents in athletic prowess. They encouraged his progress but also stressed academics, knowing that sports could only take him so far. The McCutchens sent their son to Union Academy in Bartow, about 15 minutes north of Fort Meade. There he developed a love of drawing and poetry.

Union Academy did not have a baseball team, so Andrew spent most of his time of his diamond for youth league clubs and later AAU travel teams. He switched to Fort Meade Middle School in eighth grade and—because the town mixed its middle and high school—was eligible to try out for the varsity baseball team at age 13. Coach Jeff Toffanelli took one look at the teenager’s quick, powerful swing and dubbed him the starting shortstop for the Fighting Miners. Andrew hit .591 that year—leading all high school players in Polk County.

Andrew had already become something of a school legend at that point. He played wide receiver for the Fort Meade JV football team in the fall of 2001. In the final game of the season, he caught two TD passes, ran back two kickoffs for scores, and scored a fifth touchdown on a punt return.

Andrew developed into a three-sport star in high school for Fort Meade, despite suffering an ACL injury as a freshman. He played football, ran track, and was the leader of the baseball team. He was a member of the state championship 4 x 100 relay team as a freshman and earned All-County honors in football as a sophomore. During Andrew’s freshman baseball season, coach Toffanelli followed the advice of a baseball scout and moved Andrew to the outfield.

Andrew hit .474 during his varsity career—and better than .700 as a senior with 45 stolen bases. He was offered baseball and football scholarships by several Florida schools. He committed to the University of Florida, but after being selected by the Pirates with the 11th pick in the opening round of the baseball draft, he decided to begin his professional baseball career and signed with Pittsburgh. 

ON THE RISE

Andrew split his first pro seasons between the Gulf Coast League Pirates and Williamsport Crosscutters of the NY-Penn League. In a total of 58 games, the 18-year-old batted .310 with 17 stolen bases and 18 extra-base hits. In 2006, Andrew spent the bulk of the year with the Class-A Hickory Crawdads. He batted .291 with 14 homers and 22 stolen bases. Toward the end of the season, he was promoted a level to Altoona of the Eastern League, where he hit .308 in 20 games. He was the only teenager on the roster. The Pirates named him theirMinor League Player of the Year for 2006.

Andrew returned to Altoona in 2007 and continued to hone his game. Late in the year, the Pirates moved him up to the Class-AAA Indianapolis Indians, where he .313 in 17 games. From there, Andrew continued his progress in the Arizona Fall League, where he was named to the AFL Rising Stars and All-Prospect squads.

Andrew spent the entire 2008 campaign with Indianapolis, manning centerfield between fellow prospects Steve Pearce and Nyjer Morgan. Andrew led the team in hits and runs, and was third in RBIs behind Pearce and Neil Walker. He and Morgan combined for 78 stolen bases at the top of the order.


 

 

 

 

 


Andrew McCutchen, 2005 Bowman

     
 

It was only a matter of time before Andrew got the call. In 2009, the Pirates were in the midst of yet another losing season when they dealt Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves for prospects Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez in early June. The Bucs immediately promoted their top prospect. Andrew started in centerfield against the New York Mets and collected tw hits, stole a base and scored three runs.

He played almost every day the rest of the year and managed to keep his average between .270 and .300, ending up at .286. In an August game against the Washington Nationals, Andrew went wild, launching three home runs and knocking in six runs. He hit a solo homer, a two-run homer and a three-run homer, falling short of the “home run” cycle by a grand slam. He ended the year with 12 homers and 54 RBIs to go with his 22 steals.

Andrew’s numbers held steady in 2010. As enemy pitchers adjusted to him, he was able to adjust right back. He duplicated his .286 average, while increasing his home runs to 16 and his stolen bases to 33. He led the Pirates in hits, runs, doubles and triples. Even though Pittsburgh lost 105 games, the team now had a nucleus of exciting young position players, including Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata. The pitching situation was the club’s main concern moving forward.  

In 2011, the Pirates improved by 15 games and briefly held first place in the NL Central in late July. They got decent years out of pitchers Morton, Jeff Karstens, and James McDonald. Pittsburgh also found a capable closer in Joel Hanrahan.

The big difference, however, was the offense. The team hit well in clutch situations. That helped the Pirates believe they could win any game. Andrew took on more of a run-producing role, leading the club with 23 homers, 89 RBIs and a .456 slugging average. He saw his average dip to .254 and his strikeouts rise to 126,. But no one was particularly concerned. Andrew was just 24, and he showed all the makings of a true superstar.

The fans, meanwhile, were delighted to see Andrew earn his first Al-Star selection. He came in for Matt Kemp in the 7th inning of a 5–1 victory by the National League. Andrew tapped out to the pitcher in his lone at-bat. 

MAKING HIS MARK

Everything came together for Andrew in 2012. He was a one-man wrecking crew, rating among the league’s top hitters in almost every meaningful measure. The Pirates were in first place at the All-Star break and were 16 games over .500 at the beginning of August. That was rare territory for the Bucs, who had gone more than 15 seasons since their last winning campaign.


Andrew McCutchen, 2009 Topps
     
 

Andrew kept his average well above .300, and during a three-game stretch in May, he clubbed four homers. July was simply a sublime month for Andrew. In 92 at-bats, he picked up 41 hits, including four doubles, a triple and seven homers. That came on the heels of back-to-back months in which he batted better than .360.

In July, Andrew also went on another long ball tear, launching six round-trippers in six games. That streak was broken up by Andrew’s second All-Star appearance. Ironically, he was bumped from the starting lineup by Melky Cabrera, who was leading the NL in hitting ahead of Andrew and won the All-Star MVP that night. Andrew replaced Cabrera in the 5th inning and lined a single off of Chris Sale an inning later for his first hit as an All-Star.  

A month later, it was revealed that Cabrera had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and was suspended for the remainder of the season. This froze his average at .346, while Andrew mounted his own charge for the batting title. Heading into the final month, Andrew was hitting over .340. With Cabrera already having enough plate appearances to qualify for the title, baseball fans pondered what would happen if that ended up as the league’s top mark.

Andrew proved to be mortal in August, as the strain of carrying the Pirates seemed to take its toll. His average dipped to .253, and his power numbers dropped as well. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh began to fade in the Central.

Still, as September started, Pittsburgh was right in the middle of the Wild Card race. The fans, who had turned out in healthy numbers all year, continued to fill PNC Park. With young sensation Starlin Marte flanking Andrew in left field, the Pirates gave their supporters something to cheer about every game.


Andrew McCutchen, autographed photo
     
 

Having shaken off a losing legacy that stretches back two decades, the Bucs are poised to challenge for an October baseball berth. Andrew is the undisputed leader of this renaissance—a game-changer whenever he steps on the field and a likely MVP candidate for a generations to come.

ANDREW THE PLAYER

As Andrew enters his prime years, there is little not to like about his all-around game. He is an exceptional baserunner with above-average speed, a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder who attacks fly balls, and a blossoming power hitter.

Andrew swings hard, but it’s a short, line-drive swing. He may never hit 40 homers, but he is unlikely to suffer through prolonged slumps as long as he stays healthy. Andrew is a decent judge of the strike zone, and he should bring his strikeouts back down under double-digits as he gains maturity and experience.

Defensively, Andrew is one of the best in baseball. His blazing speed allows him to track down balls in the gaps, and his arm is very strong. In Pittsburgh’s expansive outfield, he is a real weapon.


Andrew McCutchen, autographed photo
     

 

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