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Andrew McCutchen’s return to Pittsburgh

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McCutchen will play his first game ever at PNC Park in a different uniform on Friday night.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lin Manuel Miranda described a personal legacy as “planting seeds in a garden you don’t get to see.” Which is true, I suppose, on the larger scale. You don’t get to know your ultimate impact on the world as a whole, you just do your best and be the best person you can and hope that it made a difference somehow.

Whether that’s bringing joy to thousands of fans every day, or even just being kind to others, we all make an impact. But we don’t often have occasion to contemplate our impact in the moment.

For Andrew McCutchen, that occasion will present itself on Friday as he returns to PNC Park, the field he called home for his entire big league career prior to this season.

It would be easy to look back on his time in Pittsburgh with regret - regret that despite showing much promise, they were unable to find playoff success. Or regret that things ended the way they did. But McCutchen takes a very introspective approach to his time with the Pirates.

In an interview with The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel this week, McCutchen was asked about his upcoming return to PNC Park and what he believes his legacy was. McCutchen gave a refreshingly genuine reply:

I wanted to leave a lasting impression to point of, when my name is mentioned, people don’t necessarily think of just me, the baseball player. They think of me, the person.

This isn’t a new sentiment from McCutchen, even if it is the first time he’s considering it from an outside perspective.

McCutchen was the recipient of the 2015 Roberto Clemente award for his involvement in the community. If you recall, this was the season in which he auctioned off his trademark dreadlocks to raise money for charity. The award was an honor that he found particularly poignant, as Clemente was a career-long Pittsburgh Pirate and conducted himself both on and off the field in a manner in which McCutchen similarly aspired to do.

McCutchen was beloved in Pittsburgh, not just for his work on the baseball field (where he was the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player), but for his work within the community. He worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and regularly went above and beyond in his work with local children’s hospitals.

If this is all starting to sound a bit like I’m describing Buster Posey as a Pittsburgh Pirate, it’s because they have remarkably similar stories with regards to the mutual dedication and devotion they held with the city that brought them up.

McCutchen was the face of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was their franchise player. He was their Buster. He discusses in the piece by The Athletic what he appreciated most about his time with Pittsburgh, and he describes a change in culture:

Instead of the Pirates being kind of a rehabilitation center for players, a place where while they were there they wanted to be somewhere else, it changed into a place they wanted to stay. I think that was the coolest transition. Instead of trading away guys, we were trading for guys and guys wanted to stay. It was cool to see how that changed the team, the clubhouse and, I think, the city. It was a good period.

Unfortunately, he didn’t get to stay and fulfill the dream of being a lifelong Pirate. But he says he has no regrets about how everything turned out, and was very understanding with regards to the front office.

But one can imagine this weekend will be slightly bittersweet for both McCutchen and his fans in Pittsburgh.

It is only fitting, then, that the Pirates organization will be welcoming him back with fanfare on Friday and he can see in the faces of those fans he left behind exactly what his legacy was in their hearts.