Today's Home Opener Will Feature a Top Moment in Pirates' History

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As a near 30 year-old Pittsburgh Pirate fan, there have been very few historic moments in my fanhood.  We started off my life with 20 straight losing seasons.  I was actually born the summer after the Pirates decided not to re-sign Barry Bonds.  So while there are many happy memories surrounding my times at Pirate games, little have had actual significance.  We had a five season stretch where it felt like we played significant baseball games, but outside of that, not really.

So today will feature one of the top moments in my history as a Pirates fan, but also a top moment in Pirates' history all-time.  For a whole generation of Pirate fans, the 2013-2016 seasons were it.  Those were the high times.  And the face of that, above and beyond everyone else, was Andrew McCutchen.  Cutch will return today for his first at-bat in PNC Park as a Pittsburgh Pirate since he was traded before the 2018 season.  

McCutchen was a star from the jump.  He burst on to the scene in 2009 at just 22 years old.  Cutch was elected to the All-Star game every year from 2011 through 2015.  In that stretch he had a staggering .302/.396/.509 slash line which amounted to a .905 OPS.  I always use .800 as a barometer for a good OPS and Cutch was 100 points over that for a 5-year span.  He also had an OPS higher than .800 every season he played for the Pirates except 2016.  Incredible.  If you had to pick five faces that represent the franchise, Cutch is one of them. 

From 2013 to 2015, the Pirates appeared in the playoffs three times.  They were one of only three teams to appear in the playoffs all three of those seasons.  McCutchen also won the MVP Award in 2013, a season that featured the single best Pittsburgh sporting event of my lifetime: the 2013 National League Wild Card Game.  

That game is famous for the Johnny Cueto chant by the fans that led to him dropping the ball on the mound and surrendering a homerun to Russell Martin.  The shot heard from Uniontown all the way to the Slippery Rock.  And of course, in centerfield for that game was Andrew McCutchen.

So when Cutch was traded before the 2018 season, it left a huge hole in the hearts of Pirate fans.  I still argue it was the correct move at the time given the circumstances of the team and the return we received, but it was still heartbreaking.  When he returned to PNC Park that season, as a San Francisco Giant, the standing ovation was deafening.  

Now, today, Andrew McCutchen will take his first at-bat in PNC Park as a Pittsburgh Pirate since 2017.  Five long seasons without Cutch in the lineup, and now he is back.  It's a dream come true, really.  At some point during the past five seasons I imagine every Pirate fan had the hope that Cutch would somehow come home and retire a Pirate.  And often these sorts of sports dreams don't happen.  This one was destined.  

So when Cutch is announced for his first at-bat today, the standing ovation will be the loudest in the history of PNC Park.  The face of the Pirates for an entire generation of Pirate fans will finally be back in our lives and in-person.  It will be an all-time Pittsburgh Pirate moment in the history of the franchise.  I can't wait to be there today to cheer him on.