McCutchen continues to learn, grow, get better
Entering 10th professional year, Pirates star still has a lot of baseball ahead
Even though Andrew McCutchen is only 27 years old, he's about to enter his 10th season as a professional baseball player.
McCutchen's already remarkable career began when the Pirates made him their first-round Draft pick out of Fort Meade High School in Florida in June 2005. And its most recent chapter -- his 2013 campaign -- was the stuff that dreams are made of, as the gifted center fielder won the National League Most Valuable Player Award after leading Pittsburgh to a 94-win season and its first playoff appearance since 1992.
McCutchen remains a young man with plenty of baseball in front of him, but he's amazed at how quickly his first nine seasons in the Bucs' organization have flashed by.
"It's crazy to think that it's been that long and how quickly the time has passed," McCutchen said. "I've been playing a long time already, and I've been in this organization a long time. But it's cool, though."
When you're as talented as McCutchen is, how could it not be cool?
In 2013, McCutchen was a member of the NL All-Star team for the third straight year, and he wound up batting .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBIs, 97 runs scored and 27 steals in 157 regular-season games. His first taste of postseason play came when he and his teammates knocked off the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card Game at PNC Park before dropping a hard-fought battle to the St. Louis Cardinals in a Division Series that went the full five games.
When McCutchen was asked to identify the most significant ways he's grown as a person and as a ballplayer since he signed with the Pirates out of high school, he quickly cited changes in two different categories.
"You definitely grow in a lot of ways, and one is physically. I remember being 18 years old and 165 pounds, soaking wet," said McCutchen, who weighs about 20 pounds more than that now. "When I was that age, I could eat whatever I wanted. I didn't have to worry about it. Now I'm getting in that bracket where I kind of have to watch what I eat. I've started to put on some pounds easier than normal. So that's been different.
"But I've learned a lot of different things. Like I've learned how to deal with failure. I hit .700 in high school, and I went into pro ball thinking that I could hit somewhere around there still. I really did think that. But you learn that you can't. All of the things you experience, they all help you in the long run. And that was a big one for me, learning how to deal with failure."
Though the multitalented McCutchen is viewed as someone who is on top of the baseball world, he has no plans to rest on his laurels, and he's convinced that he can still improve.
"I don't care if I'm 40 years old and still playing the game, I'll be going into the next year saying, 'I can get better,'" McCutchen explained. "That's always going to be my mindset. I don't feel like I've reached my pinnacle. Honestly, I don't."
Some folks may think that finishing third in the NL MVP Award balloting in 2012 -- behind Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers -- made McCutchen want the award even more last year. But he insists that's not the kind of thing that drives him.
"I didn't win the award because I had my mind set on it," McCutchen said. "I had my mind set on getting better individually in order to help my team win. That's the way I go about it every single year.
"Awards come with that, but you're playing for your team. You're not playing for yourself."