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Longtime outfielder Andrew McCutchen finally has the chance to wear No. 24 for the Milwaukee Brewers like his boyhood idol, Ken Griffey Jr., once did.
Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. is a hero to baseball kids growing up in the 1990s, but few could ever call Griffey Jr. a close friend.
For Andrew McCutchen, Griffey Jr. served as an early inspiration for his own MLB dreams, which McCutchen finally realized in 2009 when he was debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After all these years and playing for three teams in the past four years, the 35-year-old McCutchen has landed in Milwaukee on a one-year, $8.5 million deal. Finally, he’ll get something he’s wanted his entire baseball career: to wear Griffey Jr.’s historic jersey number of 24.
“This was meant to be,” McCutchen told reporters in the Brewers locker room.
McCutchen then described his first meeting with Griffey Jr. during spring training, back when Griffey Jr. was still in the league. Their careers only overlapped by a season, but McCutchen and Griffey Jr. met and became friends. To McCutchen’s surprise, Griffey Jr. called him during the interview.
“So we had a quick number change,” McCutchen said as he admired his No. 24 jersey hanging in his locker. “I was number 5, and No. 24 opened up, so you know I had to grab that for obvious reasons.”
“I appreciate that,” Griffey Jr. said.
Griffey Jr. then asks more about how McCutchen is doing with the move to Milwaukee, offering to grab dinner with him soon in the coming weeks. Griffey Jr. is happy to hear that McCutchen and his family are doing well as his wife and children plan to arrive in Milwaukee shortly.
Andrew McCutchen honors role model Ken Griffey Jr. with No. 24 jersey
Ten years ago, McCutchen was a formidable opponent for the Brewers as a Pittsburgh Pirate, but he still wields the lefty hits and outfield skills that make him a valuable addition to the Brewers roster.
As a Pirate, the consistent MVP candidate racked up five consecutive All-Star appearances, four Silver Slugger Awards and the 2013 National League MVP Award. Now, McCutchen is joining his fifth team in four years.
“Now that I’ve done it a few times, it’s kind of a surreal feeling,” McCutchen said. “It’s almost an uneasy feeling. Picture if you have kids and your kid is walking into a new school and not knowing anyone. Imagine that feeling. It’s like a little kid walking into a new place for the first time. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I don’t necessarily know what to think or how to feel at first, but once you get all those feelings out of the way, you start to settle in a little bit and it starts to feel good and it starts to feel right.”
Even if McCutchen feels a little nervous in his new home, having a familiar number honoring a friend and mentor clearly made McCutchen feel more comfortable in his Brewers uniform.