Harrison, McCutchen closely tied to Griffey

Harrison, McCutchen closely tied to Griffey

PITTSBURGH -- Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, and two Pirates will be closely tied to the man they used to call "The Kid."

Andrew McCutchen grew up a huge fan of Griffey. The superstar center fielder inspired some hometown pride in Cincinnati native Josh Harrison, as Griffey attended Archbishop Moeller High School and played for the Reds from 2000-08.

"When he was coming through there, it was around when I was in high school. I remember him coming back," said Harrison, 29. "I knew [Barry] Larkin was from Cincinnati. They both played at Moeller High School. Those were two guys I followed. When he was able to come home, it was cool to see him hit a couple of his home runs at Great American [Ball Park]."

Harrison, who attended Princeton High School in Cincinnati, was able to meet Griffey on several occasions as he began a professional baseball career of his own.

"We know each other a little bit, being from Cincinnati," Harrison said. "He's a cool dude, and I'm happy for him. Definitely deserving."

McCutchen agreed. He grew up watching and idolizing Griffey, who hit 630 home runs and batted .284 with a .907 OPS during his 22-year Major League career.

"It's pretty obvious the guy should be there. Look what he's done. Look what he's brought to the game and the numbers that he put up," McCutchen said. "He was a guy that could hit whenever he felt like hitting. He could do it in his sleep. Everything came naturally to him, and he showed that out on the field.

"He played the game like a kid, and that's why they called him 'The Kid.' He always kept a smile on his face. He's a guy that could do anything out there."

Griffey has occasionally expressed his respect for McCutchen. During an interview on ESPN's "SportsCenter" two years ago, Griffey said McCutchen was the young outfielder who most resembled his game and called McCutchen the all-around best player in the big leagues.

For McCutchen, meeting Griffey -- much less hearing that kind of praise from a soon-to-be Hall of Famer -- was surreal.

"I grew up watching him. He's my childhood idol, someone who to me seemed like a fantasy. He didn't seem real to me," McCutchen said. "We all have those as kids. We see someone we look up to, we don't necessarily think that they're real. That's a person I'm never going to come in contact with or meet. It felt like something you dream of, like a crazy dream that's never going to happen. That's how I felt with Junior.

"It's a dream, man. That's something you don't think would ever happen."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.