I don’t normally write pieces like this, but to Brian McCann:
As a sports journalist whose main love is baseball, and a longtime avid, yet young Braves fan, I want to say thank you.
From the time I was 4 years old in 2005, watching what Skip Caray would oft times refer to as “super duper telecast” on TBS with my dad, I’ve been a proud member of Braves Country. That was your first season in the Major Leagues as I witnessed the emergence of new “Baby Braves” Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, and Brian McCann. My first taste of playoff baseball was the league division series against the Houston Astros, where you hit a ball so far that, as Crash Davis would say, “should’ve had a damn stewardess on it” against the best pitcher in baseball, Roger Clemens.
In 7 of the next 8 seasons, you were on the All-Star team. A ritual between my father and I to watch Braves such as Chipper Jones, Craig Kimbrel and yourself perennially. Some years we got lucky and got to hear the names of pitchers you caught, such as Jonny Venters, Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens. You were the superstar catcher who jumped off the screen in my summer days off of school. You hit to a marvelous .277/.350/.473 statline complimented by an .823 OPS, 176 big flies, and 661 RBI. While I didn’t get to witness all of an Andruw Jones, all of a Tom Glavine or even all of a Chipper Jones, you were my guy from day one.
I watched you play the game the right way, with your heart on your sleeve and be one of the best teammates any player could ask for. You’re also one of the most feared, but respected backstops. Just ask Carlos Gomez.
When the Glavine’s and Chipper’s retired, we in Braves Country saw the Heyward’s and Prado’s of the club exit as well. But, the one that hurt me was when you went to the Yankees. Being from Florida, I regularly got to see the Yankees play on Sun Sports, and while I wouldn’t root for the Bronx Bombers, you were always my soft spot.
When you went to Houston, you’re the reason I rooted for them to win. I did, in fact, shed a tear of joy when you absolutely annihilated a 96-mph heater down and in from Tony Cingrani in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, in which you went on to win.
Then you came home. And despite every health issue you’ve had, I welcomed it because you were still one of my favorite players. I was sitting in a hospital room waiting for my surgeon to give me X-Ray results when I get the MLB Trade Rumors notification that the Braves brought you back. It was my dad who was sitting next to me, and I gave him the biggest hug. A piece of my childhood, and something I used to bond with him had returned. Not only did he return, the once Baby Brave helped the new Baby Braves to their second consecutive NL East Championship. Guys like Max Fried and Mike Soroka showed only a glimpse of what’s to come because of things that you taught them.
I will forever be glad that you not only went out on your own terms, but that you also went out as an Atlanta Brave. Thank you for playing a pivotal role in igniting a love of the game.
I speak for every single person in Braves Country when I say that we wish you luck in everything and we know that one of the most selfless players of his time will have a plaque in Cooperstown.
Chop On, Brian.