Andrew McCutchen #22 of the San Francisco Giants acknowledges the fans during a standing ovation against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 11, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The standing ovation started before his number and name were announced, and the cheering and clapping continued for 90 seconds.
Andrew McCutchen needed no introduction to PNC Park.
But his raw-emotion response was neither to shed a tear nor crack a smile but simply take off his batting helmet in appreciation of the applause.
It was a business-like response to a business decision, the Pirates trading the five-time All-Star in January to the San Francisco Giants.
“This is a business,” said Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison, Cutch's close friend. “I don't think there's any question that Pittsburgh holds a special place in his heart, but for you to truly move on and be the best you can be, you have to focus on the present. But he's a San Francisco Giant.”
McCutchen was the face of the Pirates the past nine years, and Friday was a night to celebrate his return to Pittsburgh.
If this homecoming was harder, it's because everything started backward.
“Good to be back. Still hasn't really set in yet, being on visitors' side. A little weird,” McCutchen said four hours before first pitch. “I felt like I needed a few more steps. Just something you always walk by it, but you don't ever notice it. Now you notice it. It was a little different, getting used to that clubhouse.”
It was a little different, getting used to McCutchen wearing the Giants' road grays and coming out of the visitors' dugout, too.
Andrew Rodenbeck bought a photograph of a dreadlocked McCutchen running out of the dugout at the 2013 wild-card game against the Cincinnati Reds, the first playoff for either Andrew.
Rodenbeck staked a spot in the front row along the third base line, where McCutchen personalized an autograph.
“Once they traded him and the schedule came out, this game was circled on my calendar,” said Rodenbeck, 18, a senior at Blackhawk.
“It's kind of funny. My senior prom (was Friday), and I chose this. I'd much rather be here. He's my favorite player, and I wanted to welcome him back. I feel like I had to be here.”
So did everyone among the 34,720 fans, the largest crowd of the season.
They saw McCutchen share hugs with Pirates hitting coach Jeff Branson and manager Clint Hurdle and Gregory Polanco and Harrison during batting practice, Jordy Mercer, Josh Bell, David Freese and even the Pirate Parrot mascot while stretching in the outfield.
McCutchen then showed as much emotion as we would see. He removed his cap, bowed his head and took a knee in center field in what appeared to be a moment of prayer and reflection.
When it was time for McCutchen to bat, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli stood at the edge of the infield with his back to the mound. That was an indication that this moment belonged to Cutch, for however long he wanted it to last.
McCutchen soaked it in but was ready to get back to baseball. When he didn't swing at Jameson Taillon's 3-2 pitch low and away, home-plate umpire Chris Segal signaled a strikeout.
Guess somebody forgot to inform Taillon, Segal and even Starling Marte that this was Cutch's night. His replacement in center and the No. 3 in the order smacked a two-run homer to left in the bottom of the first.
In between, the Pirates' 30-second video tribute was perfect: highlights ranging from McCutchen's first MLB hit to a winning home run to a diving catch to dancing in the dugout to his first career grand slam to that big, beaming smile.
Despite striking out twice and grounding out once, McCutchen added more highlights. He threw out Colin Moran at home to end the sixth and then doubled to left in the seventh.
It was McCutchen as we should remember him best, as a Pirate who was once was a giant instead of a Giant who was once a Pirate.