Surprise All-Star Game nod is special for McCann
Catcher replaces injured Braves teammate Freeman on NL roster
NEW YORK -- When Brian McCann gained his first All-Star selection in 2006, he was a wide-eyed 22-year-old kid who sought guidance from Edgar Renteria and Andruw Jones, the only other Braves selected to compete in that Midsummer Classic.
Seven years later, McCann has become an expert of the All-Star scene. But that does not mean his latest selection is any less special than any of his previous six.
"All I can say is I've been very blessed to be in this position," McCann said. "To show up here seven out of eight years, that's something I'll always cherish."
Unlike any of his previous six selections, this one came as a complete surprise to McCann. While he knew St. Louis' All-Star catcher Yadier Molina had been recently dealing with a sore right knee, McCann did not anticipate being the guy selected to replace his Braves teammate Freddie Freeman, who was deemed unable to play after jamming his left thumb in Saturday's win against the Reds.
"I really wish [Freeman] could be out here playing," McCann said. "He's a huge reason we're in first place. He's solidified our offense all year long. He's sat there in the middle of the order. I really wish he could partake in it. But he's here and he's having a good time."
While Freeman and Braves closer Craig Kimbrel arrived in New York City on Sunday night to begin partaking in the All-Star scene, McCann did not get to town until around 3 p.m. ET on Monday, approximately 24 hours after he learned he would be participating in Tuesday night's All-Star Game at Citi Field (watch at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
During the latter part of Sunday afternoon's loss to the Reds at Turner Field, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez motioned for McCann, who assumed this meant he was going to be inserted as a pinch-hitter. But Gonzalez was simply asking McCann if he was willing to accept Giants manager Bruce Bochy's invitation to serve as a third catcher on his National League roster.
"I've always had a good relationship with Bochy," McCann said. "I think he respects what I do on the field, being a former catcher. He wanted to carry three catchers. I'm honored to be here."
After learning of his selection, McCann remained in Atlanta on Sunday night to attend a portion of his friend Luke Bryan's concert and to tend to his wife, who is 6 1/2 months pregnant. In addition, he made the travel arrangements that allowed him to share this latest experience with his parents and older brother, Brad.
Lingering right shoulder discomfort prevented McCann from earning a seventh straight All-Star selection in 2012. The ailment forced him to undergo offseason shoulder surgery and miss this season's first five weeks. But over the course of the past two months, he has re-established himself as one of the game's top catchers.
McCann has hit .291 with 12 home runs and a .910 OPS, which ranks second only to the Giants' Buster Posey among NL catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. The veteran enhanced his All-Star credentials while hitting .440 with a 1.282 OPS in his past 13 games.
"Just getting back to the player I know that I am, that is more special to me than making an All-Star team," McCann said.
Freeman gained his first All-Star selection last Thursday, when it was revealed he had garnered more votes than any player that has ever been placed on the All-Star Final Vote ballot. Two days later, he jammed his left thumb when he came off the first-base bag to grab Andrelton Simmons' errant throw and tag Cincinnati's Chris Heisey.
Instead of coming to this year's event with the hope of coming off the bench to deliver a key hit, Freeman arrived wearing a black brace that stabilized his thumb.
"When the fans vote you in, you want to go out and play well for them," Freeman said. "I couldn't control it. It was just a throw up the line. I had to go and catch it. I spun with him and everything. It was just my thumb was in the wrong spot."
Freeman has been encouraged by the fact that the swelling around his thumb has continued to subside over the past two days. He will visit Dr. Gary Lourie in Atlanta on Thursday with the hope that he will be cleared to play when the Braves begin the post-All-Star-break portion of their schedule on Friday against the White Sox.
"I don't know if I can play Friday, because I don't know if they will let me go right back into it," Freeman said. "But I'll try to talk my way into it. You know me. I told them I could play yesterday."
While Freeman was certainly not happy to learn he wouldn't be available to play on Tuesday, he was relieved to learn his roster spot had provided McCann a well-deserved opportunity to experience yet another All-Star Game.
"Knowing that another Brave is coming in my spot is awesome, especially with how hard [McCann] worked during the offseason to come back from shoulder surgery," Freeman said. "All the hard work paid off, and now to have a seventh All-Star selection is awesome. Just to be a part of it is pretty cool."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.