Why former Pirates star Andrew McCutchen stays involved with Pittsburgh
On a dreary Tuesday, on the sixth floor of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, a roomful of young patients were busy working on a variety of different art projects. The children, inpatients at the hospital, visit regularly as part of what’s referred to as art therapy.
The energy level in the room increased considerably when former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder and National League MVP Andrew McCutchen showed up.
Some of the kids were too young to remember when Cutch played in Pittsburgh. Others probably didn’t even know he was a baseball player, let alone an all-star. All they could tell was that he was a nice guy who was interested in spending some time with them. The feeling was mutual.
“It’s great to interact with kids, just to take their minds off of whatever they may be going through at the time,” said McCutchen. “It’s always great to be able to show up, to talk with them and put a smile on their face, even if it’s only for the time being. That little bit of interaction with them means a lot to me.”
Among the children McCutchen spent time painting with was Zoe Kenny, a 6-year-old girl who was wearing a mask. As she grabbed Cutch by the hand and led him around the room to the different stations, it was easy to imagine a smile beneath her mask.
“Just to have someone like Andrew who really loves our city and supports the arts and supports art therapy to be here taking time out of his day to work with our patients and families is a really big deal,” said Katie O’Connor, an art therapist at Children’s Hospital. She mentioned that McCutchen is a sketch artist himself.
“He’s just wonderful,” she said. “There are kids throwing him baseballs, and he’s making little babies laugh and holding kids. It could be the youngest kid or even an older kid who wants to ask him about a baseball technique. The last time he was here, he signed a canvas for a patient, and they stayed in touch afterward. He really does form relationships when he’s here with our patients.”
For McCutchen it’s just one event during Cutch Week, part of Project Pittsburgh, a grassroots movement started by McCutchen and his wife Maria to encourage volunteerism in the Pittsburgh area. This week volunteers are taking part in a variety of charitable events that include feeding the hungry, working on building houses for low-income families, and leading a youth baseball clinic.
Some may wonder why McCutchen remains so involved in the Pittsburgh community. He was traded by the Pirates nearly two years ago.
“I was here for 10 years, so you definitely develop your relationships with people over time. With the Pirates we won, we lost, but aside from all of that I’ve been able to develop so many relationships with so many different people. So, it’s only right to be able to come here and be able to help,” said McCutchen.
“It means a lot to me and my wife, and this is something that we’re doing for a week, but you know we want to continue to keep doing this regardless of whether the cameras are there or not.”
And even though McCutchen is now playing for the Philadephia Phillies, he and Maria still call Pittsburgh home. They live in the northern suburbs. Maria McCutchen is a native of DuBois, Clearfield County, and a 2011 graduate of Slippery Rock University.
“So much has happened here in this city,” he said. “I met my wife here. I got married here. Had kids here and we’re raising a family. So, this is where me and my wife decided to live.”
When asked if he misses playing baseball in the Steel City, McCutchen said it was more about the bonds he formed here.
“It’s not so much about the playing, you miss the people you do it with, the teammates I had, the guys I used to play with,” he said. “You miss the city, you miss the fans.”
Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].