Whether gliding gracefully across the cavernous outfield of PNC Park or sprinting between bases to avoid a sweeping tag, Pittsburgh Pirate Andrew McCutchen’s game is predicated upon his ability to move quickly from one place to another.
Surrounded by plenty of young talent, McCutchen, 25, is hoping to be part of another quick move—one that takes the Pirates from bottom-dwellers to playoff-bound division winners this season. Through his on-field ability and highly respectable character—which is based in his personal faith in Jesus Christ—McCutchen has risen to become a leader in the Pirates’ clubhouse in just his fourth season in the Bigs. And he’s not taking his responsibility lightly. He’s embracing his platform and making a positive impact on his teammates, coaches and fans.
Fresh off his first All-Star season and with a new six-year contract in hand, the speedy center fielder recently slowed down for an interview with STV to reminisce about last season, look forward to this summer, and to discuss FCA’s 2012 Camp theme, “In the Zone.”
STV: Last season, the Pirates started out hot and were the talk of Major League Baseball. What’s the key to starting off well again this year and maintaining momentum throughout the season?
Andrew McCutchen #22
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Hometown: Fort Meade, Fla.
Born: Oct. 10, 1986
Height/Weight: 5-10/175 lbs.
MLB Debut: June 4, 2009
• 2011 National League All-Star
• 2009 Baseball America Rookie of the Year
AM: The key to getting off to a hot start is not trying to do too much. There’s a lot more expected of us this year since we showed what we were capable of during the first half of last season. We are a better team overall, and I feel like all we have to do is play our game and stay true to ourselves.
Finding a way to stay consistent over a long stretch is definitely something you have to deal with in baseball. We didn’t have the finish that we wanted last season, and in anything you do you have to be able to finish. We learned from those mistakes and the ups and downs, and we’re ready to improve this season.
STV: Last season was statistically the best of your career, and you were named an All-Star for the first time. What did the individual recognition mean to you?
AM: Being in my first All-Star game was definitely something I’m going to remember. I did have a good season—my power went up, run production went up, walks went up—but there were still some things I wish I could have done a little better. I worked this offseason on trying to become a more consistent player so that I could be better this season.
STV: You’ve mentioned how important it is to be consistent throughout the long baseball season. How does that apply to your faith? How do you stay consistent in your faith, specifically throughout the long season?
AM: The biggest thing is to surround yourself with a good group of guys. We have that here, and we keep each other level, grounded and straight. We have a great group of guys like Michael McKenry, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and others who are devoted to Christ. That definitely helps. But there is also a personal responsibility to stay level-headed and on the right path. I feel like those are the two most important things during the season.
STV: This year’s FCA Camp theme is “In the Zone,” based on Ephesians 3:20 which says, “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” What does it mean to you to be in the zone athletically?
AM: That could happen in different places in my game. I could be at bat and be surrounded by thousands of fans, but it will feel like it’s just me and the pitcher. Or when I’m stealing a base. I’ll lead off the bag, and everything slows down; I feel like it’s just me against the pitcher. I’ll be so focused that I can’t hear anything around me.
As an athlete, it’s always good to have that feeling of being in the zone. When you’re in the zone, it feels like nothing can stop you. You can do anything. I love having that feeling as a baseball player, and I’m sure every other baseball player loves it as well.
STV: How do those times differ from a typical game?
AM: They are definitely different. You can have days when things may not be clicking for you physically or you don’t feel well, and then it becomes difficult mentally. You really have to be grounded at that point. Whether you are in the zone or not, you have to approach each game with a positive attitude and be ready to give it all you have. So much of this game—and every sport, really—is mental. Being in the zone is a mindset that you rarely get into, but it’s great when you do.
STV: What does it mean to you to be in the zone spiritually?
AM: I feel like it means doing God’s work—doing what He’s called me to do and using the gifts and talents He’s given me. In my life, I want people to see that I’m not just a baseball player. I want them to know me as a Christian and as someone who is not afraid to make God’s name known. There are sure to be difficult times. God said it wasn’t always going to be easy, but Luke 12:48 says, “…Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.” I feel like that verse applies to me in more than just giving. It involves doing what’s right, doing what God expects me to do on and off the field. When I am doing that, I feel very connected to God.
STV: Does living in the zone spiritually translate into how you play and how you help lead your team?
AM: When I’m living in the zone spiritually it definitely helps me as a baseball player. It keeps me positive, believing in the abilities God has given me. As Luke 17:6 says, if we have faith just the size of a mustard seed, we’ll be able to do amazing things.
My dad is a pastor, and growing up he instilled Romans 8:28 in me: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." That applies so much to us playing for the Pirates. We’ve had 19-straight losing seasons, but I know and I believe that all things will work out for the good. That’s what keeps me positive, and that’s what keeps us going.
STV: What does the camp theme verse, Ephesians 3:20, mean to you?
AM: With God’s favor, we’re able to do anything in this world that we put our minds to because of the gifts and abilities He’s given us. Having the favor of God is one of the most tremendous gifts a person can have. I am reminded every day that, just as quickly as He’s given me abilities, He can take them away. It’s so important to stay grounded and connected to Him. He’s given me so much that the only way I can say thank-you is to give Him all I can in return.
Active in the Pittsburgh community, McCutchen is pictured here with local members of “Cutch’s Crew.”
STV: David Daly, the National Director of FCA Baseball, has worked with you and the Pirates organization for quite some time. How has he and the ministry of FCA helped
you develop spiritually?
AM: David and FCA have helped me a lot! It’s been great to hear his messages throughout the course of my career and be strengthened by them. As a young guy coming up through the minor leagues, knowing that we had guys like David in our clubhouse serving God and pouring into us really helped me. It’s important to study the Bible on my own, but it’s always good to discuss it with someone who’s wiser than I am.
The ministry and message of FCA is so important. It’s great to have people ministering to and influencing athletes and coaches for the Lord. FCA provides opportunities for kids to hear about God, and then go and tell someone else and it will continue down the line. I’m thankful to FCA and love to help in any way I can because of the impact they are having.
STV: What do you think a Pirate playoff run would mean to the city of Pittsburgh?
AM: It would show this community that there’s hope regardless of what they’ve gone through. Sometimes we experience more downs than ups in life, but if you stick with it and entrust it to God, continue to believe and work hard every day, those things will pay off eventually. If we were able to break through and have a great year and end the streak of losing seasons, I believe it would give people hope. They’d be inspired by the fact that we never gave up and kept on working and trying with all we had. Active in the Pittsburgh community, McCutchen is pictured here with local members of “Cutch’s Crew.”
STV: Do you feel God has shown that concept through your life so far?
AM: It’s amazing to think back on where I came from to where I am now. I know God gave me these talents to use to the best of my ability for His glory and to be able to help others. I feel blessed beyond measure, and the least that I can do for Him is to give back to this community and these people. I am thankful for every single day the Lord has given me and for what He did for me when He died on the cross for my sins.
|BRINGING IT HOME: In the Zone
Everyone knows the moment it happens. Competitors sense it, coaches observe it, and fans are in awe of it. It’s the instant when an athlete—like Andrew McCutchen—takes his or her game to a higher level. Something happens that catapults the athlete into a stage of competitive performance in which every skill is performed with perfection and every move is executed flawlessly. The competitor’s confidence rises with every second that goes by, and he or she literally becomes unstoppable. The athlete is playing “in the zone.”
Do you realize that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you can live your entire life in the zone? It’s God’s desire for you through a relationship with His Son. He has a higher purpose for each of us that is much greater than simply living for ourselves.
Just how do you embrace this calling and start living in the zone? The answer is by first surrendering your life to God and making a choice to follow Him by embracing His Son, Jesus, as your Savior and beginning a lifelong journey of faith in Him.
Because all of us have made mistakes (sins) in life and will continue making them until the day we die, the Lord chose to pay the price for our shortcomings. He knew that we couldn’t pay for them on our own, so He sent Jesus to die on a cross as that payment. But unlike any other sacrifice, Jesus actually rose from the grave in victory over death. And now, through faith in Him and by believing He is the Son of God and the Savior of men, we can join in that victory and be assured a home with Him in heaven.
What’s even more amazing is that, when we do embrace Him as our Lord, He invites us into a personal relationship with Him even while we are here on earth. We can pray to Him at any time, come to Him with all of our cares, praises and concerns, and find peace and rest apart from the world.
If you want to start living permanently in the zone, call out to Jesus today. Ask Him to come into your life and heart, to forgive you of your sins, and to walk in relationship with you forever.
Have questions? We understand! Visit morethanwinning.org or call FCA’s National Support Center at 1-800-289-0909.
--For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.
Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates