A Great honor
McCann humbled by third All-Star appearance

Even for the best major league baseball players, being named to the All-Star Game is hardly a routine occurrence.

Such is the case for Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann.

The Duluth graduate still has that kid in a candy store feeling as he heads to New York after his team's game in San Diego this afternoon to make his third straight All-Star appearance Tuesday.

"Other than when I got called up from Double-A ball (in June of 2005), this is the greatest honor I've ever had in baseball," McCann said.

Still, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound catcher admits there's something different about going to the All-Star Game this time around.

It's partially because this All-Star trip puts McCann in more than select company.

He is the only player in Braves history - spanning back to the franchise's days in Milwaukee and Boston, according to the Elias Sports Bureau - to be named an All-Star in each of his first three full seasons in the majors. Not even Braves legends like Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain, Phil Niekro or Dale Murphy can make such a claim.

"It does blow my mind," McCann said about his franchise distinction. "I certainly don't put myself in the same category as guys like Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy or (current teammate) Chipper (Jones, who will make his sixth All-Star appearance Tuesday).

"It's just one of those weird statistics. It's cool, but being an All-Star means being consistent, and I've been pretty consistent."

While he has never been voted into the game as a starter by the fans, the fact McCann has been named to the team as a reserve by three different managers of opposing National League clubs shows just how consistent he's been.

It's another reason he says this year's selection means perhaps more than the first two.

"This year's a little different because I feel like I belong (in the All-Star Game) now," McCann said. "The first two years, I kept asking myself, 'What am I doing here?'"

There's little doubt what McCann is doing in the All-Star Game this year as he came into Saturday night's game in San Diego hitting .296 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs.

Those numbers leave him well within reach of matching his career highs of a .333 average with 24 homers and 93 RBIs, which he set in 2006.

And his offensive numbers have taken a dramatic upturn in the second half of the season in each of his first two full major-league seasons.

That could be a good sign for a Braves team desperately in need of one after languishing in fourth place in the National League Eastern Division heading into the All-Star break.

"This is by far the best first half of the season I've ever had from both an average standpoint," McCann said. "Hopefully, I can improve on that over the second half like I have the other two years.

"We didn't do as well as we hoped in the first half. We ran into a lot of injuries. So, hopefully, we can get healthy and get back into the pennant race."

But perhaps the the biggest reason this year's All-Star appearance means more to McCann might be its locale.

He has played in Yankee Stadium before during one of the Braves' interleague series in 2006.

However, being part of the final All-Star Game to be played in the venue's storied history before it closes after the season is something that means the world to McCann.

"Playing in Yankee Stadium makes it priceless," McCann said. "I've done all (the tours of the numerous monuments) before, but it's still going to be special."