As a journalist, I'm supposed to be unbiased when it comes to the people I cover. I'm not supposed to play favorites or show my affinity for one side or another.
But when it comes to the center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, those rules fly right into the Allegheny like a towering moonshot from PNC Park in July. As a lifelong baseball fan, I love Andrew McCutchen, and I'm not alone. McCutchen was voted Best Male Athlete by readers of City Paper.
At first, the reason seems like a simple one: He's really good at playing baseball. But it's more than that. We love Andrew McCutchen because he loves the game of baseball so much. Sure, it's his job and he gets paid really well for it, but this guy really loves the game; he says it with his words and his actions.
I'm writing this less than 12 hours after the Pirates were ousted from the postseason by Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs. I hated the wild-card system when I woke up this morning. The Pirates are the second-best team in baseball and their season is over after one game. But then I found these words written by McCutchen in an Oct. 6 essay about this very topic:
"A lot of people are saying that it's unfair that we have the second-best record in baseball, and we have to face Cy Young contender Jake Arrieta in a do-or-die game. There's some debate about whether it should be a best-of-three, or maybe they should do away with divisions altogether.
"I understand where those people are coming from, but my feeling is this: What kind of a champion says, ‘Man, I'm just hoping for the easiest road possible …' … That's not why we play this game. … The wild-card system might not be perfect, but you can't deny that it's a heck of a lot of fun."
The amount of fun McCutchen has while playing this game is obvious and infectious. In May, when he was in a slump and only batting .228, McCutchen started laying down in the dugout and doing some weird hand gestures. He went right out and hit a double. Prior to each game this year, McCutchen also led the team in another pregame ritual: dancing in the dugout while teammates drummed on benches, buckets and coolers.
However, his best moment of the year came on Sat., Oct. 3, versus the Cincinnati Reds, a game I was lucky enough to witness from the stands, despite the fact that the Buccos lost that night. The Reds' Adam Duvall launched a home-run ball into the right-center field bleachers. After several seconds passed, the fan who got that ball threw it back onto the turf at PNC. McCutchen calmly walked over to the ball, picked it up and fired it into the Allegheny River.
With a love for the game like that, how could he not be anyone's favorite?