PITTSBURGH — Perhaps because they didn’t want to draw attention to a trade they made, the Pirates were awfully quiet about Andrew McCutchen before Friday’s game. An on-field stadium host was previewing the matchup 20 minutes before first pitch when he was cut off by a huge crowd.
McCutchen had taken the field to start warming up, and the fans gave him an extended standing ovation, drowning out the man with the microphone as he tried to talk about Jameson Taillon. McCutchen’s first at-bat back in Pittsburgh led to an even stronger reaction. The sellout crowd stood and roared as Gregor Blanco’s leadoff fly settled into center fielder Starling Marte’s glove. The entire crowd was standing before McCutchen even approached the batter’s box, and he walked a few feet from the plate and tipped his cap.
After about 50 seconds, McCutchen tried to dig in. The crowd started chanting “MVP! MVP!” and he stepped back, a smile on his face. Catcher Francisco Cervelli vacated his spot to let the chant continue. Finally, after 90 seconds, McCutchen took a couple of deep breaths and stepped back into the box.
Earlier in the day, during a rare press conference in an opponents’ park, McCutchen said he did not know exactly how he would respond.
“If I cry, I cry. Big whoop,” he said. “You’re supposed to. If I don’t, I don’t. I want to just try and soak it all in and appreciate it and appreciate the fans around here.”
Those fans gave him another long ovation as he took right field for the bottom of the inning. The Pirates showed a tribute video highlighting his nine-year career here. After that, it was down to business, and that’s what McCutchen anticipated for most of the weekend.
The Giants and McCutchen arrived Thursday evening, and he went straight to a home he bought with his wife after they were married. McCutchen said he intends to live there for the rest of his life, and it continues to be his offseason home. In the first few hours back he took care of some important business. He went to his favorite local pizza place.