During the 2012 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen emerged as a legitimate contender for the National League batting title and MVP Award. At the age of 25, the gifted center fielder appeared in 157 games, led the league with 194 hits and was the runner-up to San Francisco's Buster Posey in the batting race with a career-best .327 mark. McCutchen, who was named NL Player of the Month for both June and July, also set career highs in home runs (31), RBIs (96) and runs scored (107), and he earned a spot on the All-Star team for the second consecutive year.
"McCutchen had a blowout year," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said on the final day of the regular season. "It's no longer just in Pittsburgh or in the NL Central or even in the National League that he's known. He's now known throughout the game of baseball."
Just days before Hurdle made those remarks, McCutchen sat down with MLB Insiders Club Magazine for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: What goes through your mind when people refer to you as one of the most talented players in the game?
McCutchen: Well, that's what I was drafted for. That's what the Pirates saw in me. That's what I heard from different coaches in the Minor Leagues. When you hear that over and over, you begin to believe it after a while, and you go out and do it. I've heard that from countless people, and it feels good.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: But that doesn't mean you didn't have to work hard to be successful, right?
McCutchen: Your talent is only going to take you so far in this game. It may get you to the big leagues, but you're not always going to be able to rely on that. You have to work hard for what you want, and I've been doing that throughout my career.
There are still things that I need to work on. I could have been more consistent this year. The hardest thing in this game is to remain consistent throughout the season.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: Was June to July the longest stretch you've ever had where you were locked in and crushing the ball?
McCutchen: It probably was, as far as maintaining that kind of consistency. In the past, I'd have a pretty good month and then I'd fall off for a month and then I'd have another decent month. It felt good to show up to the ballpark knowing what I needed to do to get ready for the game, and then being able to go out and do it.
This game is about trying to find that feeling and maintain it every day. It's more than the numbers. It's more than what you see on a sheet of paper. It's about how you feel at the plate.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: To what extent do you unplug during the offseason?
McCutchen: I don't do it for very long. I might take a month off, but last year I didn't even take that. Mentally, I might have taken off a couple weeks, but after that I was back at it again trying to get myself prepared for this year, because there were some things that I really needed to work on.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: Which players around the Majors do you enjoy watching?
McCutchen: I like to watch Torii Hunter. He's been in the big leagues for a long time and he's been consistent for his whole career. When I was in middle school and high school, he was doing big things, and he's still doing it. I'd like to mold my game after his.
I also like to watch the new sensation in the outfield for the Angels, Mike Trout. What he did this year was tremendous, especially for a guy who came [up] at 20.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: How did your trip to the All-Star Game this summer compare to your first time in 2011?
McCutchen: This year was a lot more enjoyable because I felt like I earned my way there. Last year, I got there because a couple of guys got hurt, although some people felt like I should have been there from the start. This year, I was able to get there because of my performance. It was more relaxing and I was able to go out and soak it all in. You never know if it could be your last one.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: During tough stretches, how are you able to concentrate on the positives and try to build off them?
McCutchen: I try to remember the things we did that kept us on a winning edge. I try to learn from what caused our downfall, but also focus on what we did right. The more you focus on that, the better off you're going to be the next season. We're still growing as a team and I feel like we're going to get stronger.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: Are you becoming more comfortable in a leadership role?
McCutchen: I think so. We're a young ballclub and it's good for someone like me to help guys like Starling Marte, Jose Tabata or Pedro Alvarez. I feel like they respect what I say and the things that I do because of how I carry myself on and off the field. Being more vocal could be a plus for the team, and I'm getting more relaxed in being able to speak up. If something is on my mind, I don't mind sharing it. I'm starting to accept that role, and next year I'm sure I'll speak up even more.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: What do you like to watch on TV?
McCutchen: I'm a Discovery Channel and Animal Planet guy. I like to watch things that other people may think are boring. I'm not into reality TV. I'm into realistic stuff where I'm able to learn a lot. I love "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Rowe. I like the Travel Channel and Andrew Zimmern going around eating different types of food. And I like watching "MythBusters."
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: You're a big fan of dubstep music. What do you like about it?
McCutchen: I really enjoy it just because it's different and I like to be different. A lot of people don't listen to dubstep and don't understand it. But there are so many things you can hear in it. I think the guys who make that music are geniuses. There's a lot of work and a lot of thought that's put into it. Lecrae, KB, Skrillex, Rusko -- I listen to them all.
MLB Insiders Club Magazine: You enjoy singing and can also play the piano and organ. Is there some entertainer in you in that regard?
McCutchen: I've heard it said that athletes and musicians are synonymous. They want to be us and we want to be them. Those guys are out there performing in front of a lot of people, and people enjoy seeing them put on a show. It's the same in baseball. We're performing for people and giving them a show.
Jim Lachimia is the editor of the Pittsburgh Pirates' On Deck magazine. This article appears in MLB Insiders Club Magazine, Vol. 6, Issue 1. To subscribe and join the Club, click mlbinsidersclub.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.