McCutchen named Clemente Award winner
PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen's baseball career has been full of awards and accolades, but the honor he received Friday resonated in a special way for the Pirates' star center fielder.
McCutchen was named the winner of the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet before Game 3 of the World Series at Citi Field, an honor named after the iconic Pirates outfielder for his positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
"It means a lot. I feel like it means a bit more to me, just because of it being Roberto Clemente and him playing for the Pirates, wearing the same uniform," McCutchen said Friday. "It just shows that I'm moving in the right direction as far as being able to do the things that I want to do off the baseball field. Just getting a prestigious award like this is very humbling."
McCutchen is the second Pirates player to win the Clemente Award; the first was Willie Stargell in 1974. The award is a tribute to Clemente's achievements and character, as well as a recognition of those who reflect them today.
For McCutchen, the continued association with Clemente is an honor greater than his 2013 National League MVP Award trophy, the five All-Star nods or any of his previous accolades.
"Definitely at the top," McCutchen said. "That's for sure."
McCutchen, 29, was selected from a list of 30 nominees -- one from each club -- by a panel of dignitaries that included Commissioner Rob Manfred and Vera Clemente, the wife of Roberto and an MLB Goodwill Ambassador.
Clemente, a Hall of Famer and 15-time All-Star, died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
"I am very happy that you are part of this family, too, and from this family of award winners," Vera Clemente said to McCutchen at Citi Field. "I know Roberto would be very happy to see a Pirate player being on his team."
McCutchen is actively involved with a number of community and nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh and in Bradenton, Fla., the Pirates' Spring Training home.
He and Pirates Charities founded "Cutch's Crew," his signature program, in 2010 to mentor Pittsburgh's inner-city youth baseball players and at-risk children. He also supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, the Homeless Children's Education Fund, the Light of Life Rescue Mission and Habitat for Humanity, among others.
"Andrew always makes it a priority to be a positive impact in our community, the very same way that Roberto Clemente once did," said Pirates chairman Bob Nutting, who was in New York on Friday to support McCutchen. "Having a Pirates player recognized for carrying on Clemente's legacy of giving back makes this extra special."
McCutchen, the Pirates' franchise player and one of baseball's most recognizable stars, does not draw much attention to his charitable efforts. Still, his giving spirit is hard to hide.
Several times this season, from McKechnie Field in Bradenton to PNC Park in Pittsburgh, McCutchen welcomed children from the Make-A Wish Foundation to spend the day with him. When he cut off his signature dreadlocks this spring, he auctioned them off and gave the proceeds to charity. This week, he provided Halloween costumes for patients at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh so they could go trick-or-treating.
McCutchen flew to New York City on Friday to accept the award. Before heading to the ballpark, however, he and Manfred visited patients in a cancer ward at Mount Sinai Hospital.
"Those sorts of activities build the kind of bond that's so crucial to growing our game over the long haul," Manfred said. "And it's especially important, in addition to giving his time, he goes out on the field and is one of the best players in the game."
Even when he's not doing community work, McCutchen has found ways to give back. One of the most enduring images of the entire season came just after the final out of a game in San Diego. McCutchen ran back to the outfield wall and handed his batting gloves to a pair of kids decked out in Pirates gear, a small but meaningful gesture that won't soon be forgotten.
"You're just trying to make a difference," he said. "Baseball is a great sport and has blessed me a lot. I'm just trying to do my best to give back."
During his time in Pittsburgh, McCutchen has spoken to plenty of people who knew Clemente. Through those conversations, McCutchen has learned why Clemente still means so much to this city and to baseball. McCutchen has been inspired to create a similar legacy of his own.
"The thing is, you never hear a story about how he played the game. You always hear about how great of a person he is," McCutchen said. "I feel like what was most important to Clemente was helping others. You can see it through other people.
"That definitely made a big impact on me. That's how you want to be remembered."