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McCutchen plans to have fun at Home Run Derby

PITTSBURGH -- When Andrew McCutchen was a maturing kid and athlete at Fort Meade High School in Florida, his baseball coach often shared a far-fetched fantasy.

"Hey," Jon Spradlin would say, "it'd be kind of cool if one day you were in the Home Run Derby and I threw to you."

And young McCutchen would answer, "Yeah, like that will ever happen."

It's happening.

No sooner had McCutchen been talked by girlfriend Maria into accepting captain Matt Kemp's invitation to replace injured Giancarlo Stanton on the National League State Farm Home Run Derby squad, text messages began flying off to Fort Meade, where Spradlin is still coaching baseball.

McCutchen: "Well, I do need a batting-practice thrower."

Spradlin: "I can get loose real quick."

And thus was struck Monday's Kansas City reunion between McCutchen and the man who has known his sweet spot since he was a teen.

"Hopefully he'll be able to shake off some jitters and put it in there for me," McCutchen said Sunday morning, before the Pirates lowered the first-half curtain against the Giants in PNC Park. "It will be pretty neat, not only for myself but for him, too. It's going to be pretty awesome.

"I never thought I'd be in the Derby, ever. I looked at the guys in the Derby, and they're guys who hit 40, 50 homers, big guys who drive the ball 500 feet. I'm not a person that's going to hit above 500. That's not going to happen. I can hit some home runs, but not that far."

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, anticipating a question, said he has no concerns about Monday night's Home Run Derby (8 p.m. ET on ESPN) messing with the swing that has produced a Majors-leading .362 average, along with 18 home runs.

"There's a school of thought that it's going to wreck his swing. ... It's not going to wreck his swing," Hurdle said. "He's a smart kid. Go up there, look for the ball up, put a good swing on it, and he'll hit it out of the park like he's done most of his career. I think it's a great opportunity. I told him, 'Go get it. Embrace it.'"

Agreeing, McCutchen said, "With my swing, there's nothing that can really change. It's different from a lefty's swing, which is kind of long and loopy. Me, I'm short and quick. It's a straight-through-it swing. If I hit 10 line drives, I hit 10 line drives -- it just happens."

"It's another opportunity for Pittsburgh to be represented -- the organization, the fan base," Hurdle added. "Really cool. I'm happy for him."

McCutchen is also happy for himself, and for letting Maria talk him into not whiffing on this opportunity.

"I was kind of talking myself out of it. She had to talk me into it. She said, 'Hey, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance.' And I said, 'Guess you're right.'

"I'm just going to have a lot of fun with it. Not too many people can say they've done it. A lot can say they've been an All-Star, but not many can say they've been in the Home Run Derby. I'll be able to say that regardless of the results."

But as for being happy to bring more attention to his city and to his team, McCutchen was refreshingly candid about demurring.

"I could care less about the recognition," he said. "I'm just going out doing it because it's fun, to smile and have some laughs and something to remember for the rest of your life. I don't really care about anything else besides that.

"I don't mind staying under the radar the whole season. If we look up at the end and we're in first place, that'll be just fine with me."

The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on

Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen