FORT MEADE, Fla. (KDKA) — Drive 45 miles east from Tampa, turn right at a small town called Barto, and you’ll soon arrive at another small town, Fort Meade, Fla., home to 6,000 residents, one traffic light and Andrew McCutchen.
As one local describes it, “Bat your eyes, and you’ll be through it.”
Less than an hour from where McCutchen spends Spring Training with the Pirates, Ft. Meade is that taste of small town America, where everyone knows everyone else. KDKA’s Jory Rand found that out first hand at Peaceful Believer’s Church, where Andrew’s father Lorenzo is a youth pastor.
“In the eighth grade, he used to sing in the choir,” Ruby Franklin tells KDKA.
She’s been secretary at the church for the last 15 years.
“He had a pretty good voice!” she says.
You may have even been able to hear that voice just a block away at Jackson’s store.
That’s where KDKA ran into Andrew’s father and grandfather. Neither of them expected the heights to which Andrew has reached.
“We were really hoping just for a scholarship,” Lorenzo tells KDKA.
Outside the store, we found a group of locals, all of whom were eager to tell their tales of the local star.
That’s because in Fort Meade, McCutchen is just Andrew. And his family’s store is the local hangout.
“How do we feel when we see him on TV,” Andrew’s second cousin, Cecil Campbell, asked. “Oh man, we got bragging rights. We brag to other guys from Lakeland and Barto and say, ‘Hey, we got Andrew McCutchen. We got the man.’”
“It makes me so proud that he came from Fort Meade,” says Willie Lawrence Dunlap Jr.
He deserves everything he got. He’s a real good kid,” lifetime Ft. Meade resident, Carlo Whitehurst, said.
McCutchen himself told KDKA, “The feeling you get, if you haven’t been there for a while and you get to go back, you get all those feelings that any normal person would get. It’s no different for me.”