Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen on this week's Sports Illustrated cover - Sports Illustrated

Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen on this week's Sports Illustrated cover

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The Pittsburgh Pirates had been baseball's longest running joke, going a North American sports record 20 seasons without a winning mark. But just like that, behind outfielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates' fortunes for long sustaining success are not only realized, but also realistic after leading the team to a Wild Card Game victory before bowing out in five games to in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals.

McCutchen, the National League's reigning Most Valuable Player, graces this week’s regional cover of Sports Illustrated, and he has no intentions of slowing down. He could become only the seventh NL player to win back-to-back MVP awards.

McCutchen knows he had a lot of help along the way, namely his parents, Lorenzo and Petrina (Lo and Trina), providing guidance and stability every step of the way.

"A lot of things had to happen; a lot of people had to come into your life. It seemed like it was just right at the right time — you meet certain people that paved this road and you didn't notice then. Now? I'm so grateful," McCutchen says.

McCutchen's teammates are also grateful. Even though he missed two weeks with a rib injury last month, McCutchen's play (his .401 on-base percentage is tied for tops in the NL) is keeping the Pirates in the thick of the NL Central and wild-card race with four weeks left in the season.  

For more on McCutchen, check out Albert Chen's piece in this week's Sports Illustrated. (subscribe here).

2014 Sports Illustrated Covers