Brian McCann knew Sunday was the day he would find out if he would go to his first All-Star Game. But he thought, that like everyone else, he’d have to find out by watching it on television.
“I figured they’d just keep a secret,” McCann said Sunday. “I was going to get home and watch it and hope for the best.”
But instead McCann was told before Sunday’s game against the Orioles that he would, in fact, be in the Mid-Summer’s Classic. For a 22-year-old kid that was in Double-A thirteen months ago, the experience is almost overwhelming.
“If you had told me last year that I’d even be here, I would have told you you’re lying,” McCann admitted. “But now to be lucky enough to be able to go to the All-Star Game… kids dream about stuff like this.”
McCann’s dream continues to be a great one. He was impressive last season after being called up in early June, hitting .278 in 59 games. But in just one less game so far this season, his average is 76 points higher at .354.
“I’ve worked hard to do the same thing over and over each day,” McCann said. “I’m trying to do the same thing every day to prepare myself to go out there and get the job done.”
The defensive improvement is also obvious. McCann threw out only 19% of would-be base stealers last season, but has nailed 36% this year. While he’s always been a hitter, his defense has become extremely important to him.
“I’ve taken more pride in my defense this year than I ever have before,” McCann explained. “Last year I struggled, and I didn’t want to be one of those catchers that other teams could just run on at will. Handling a staff is what catching is all about, and anything you do offensively is just a bonus. If you don’t handle a staff, you’ve not going to be around here long. So I’m very happy where I’m at.”
McCann will join outfielder Andruw Jones and shortstop Edgar Renteria as the Braves’ representatives at the All-Star Game. Both veteran players are also veterans of the All-Star Game, as each will be making their fifth appearance. McCann is glad he’ll have some familiar faces around in Pittsburgh.
“I didn’t want to do by myself,” McCann admitted. “I’m glad that Renteria and Andruw are going. They’ve been to many of these. I’m just going to sit back and observe the best players in the game.”
I’m really happy for him,” Andruw Jones said. “He deserves to be there. He’s having a tremendous year. I think if he hadn’t gotten hurt, he’d be starting if (Paul) LoDuca hadn’t gotten the votes. I know it’s a good feeling for him.”
While Jones and Renteria will be old pros at this, McCann hopes this is only the beginning. He’s excited about his selection, but his goals are high enough to believe this is perhaps the first of many appearances in the All-Star Game.
“For me, being an All-Star is doing it year in and year out,” McCann said. “So this is just a start. The big test will be to do the same thing next year. A lot of these guys have been doing it for ten years, and this is just something I want to continue. It’s something I’ll never forget, and I’ll be on the same field as some future Hall-of-Famers and some of the best players in the game.”
And now, he’s definitely one of them.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.