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Duluth aims to honor stars

Just look at the stir caused this week with Atlanta Braves all-star catcher Brian McCann's rehab assignment in Gwinnett.

Fans are expected to flock to see McCann with the G-Braves, his first game back in the county since he was a high schooler. He figures to be even more accessible here than at Turner Field, so imagine the buzz when he returns to his alma mater, Duluth High.

McCann has always been generous to the Wildcats - he even appeared at their basketball team's golf tourney fundraiser, even though it was hardly his main sport. But one act of generosity hasn't been returned to the 25-year-old slugger.

Duluth hasn't retired his jersey, something that should have been done before now. McCann is definitely deserving as a three-time all-star before he turned 25. And his number framed prominently on the Duluth outfield wall would do wonders in terms of promoting the program.

The Wildcats should do the same for another one of their alums, fellow major-leaguer Nick Green. Green, who has played in the majors since joining the Braves in 2004, is currently hitting .281 and starting at shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.

Fortunately, Duluth appears to be getting it right. The Wildcats hired a top-notch coach last week in Matt Champitto, and one of his first goals is approaching the Wildcats' two best-known alums.

"(Atlanta Brave) Jeff Francoeur's the face of Parkview," Champitto said. "We've got to make Brian McCann and Nick Green the faces of Duluth. We've got to get them back here more and get them more involved in our community. That's definitely something I want to work on."

That involvement will help Duluth immensely. A trip home by McCann and Green is a nice boost for attendance and creates some excitement, but a jersey retirement ceremony would mean even more to those two.

When Parkview retired Francoeur's jersey back in 2007, it was an emotional day for the star outfielder. His voice quivered and he got choked up at times, illustrating what a great honor it was.

Let's hope McCann and Green get the same treatment at Duluth.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.