One of Matt Champitto's missions upon his hire this year as Duluth's new baseball coach is close to being completed.
The high school will honor former Wildcat stars and current major leaguers Nick Green and Brian McCann by retiring their jerseys at halftime of the Oct. 30 home football game against North Gwinnett. Green, who played this season with the Boston Red Sox, is a 1997 Duluth grad, five years older than McCann, the well-known Atlanta Braves catcher.
"I don't know if there's anybody else with two guys currently in the big leagues like that," Champitto said of Duluth. "We're lucky to have two guys who worked their way up to be pretty successful. It's a great thing for our program to bring them back and retire their jerseys, so our kids can see them up there on the outfield wall."
Green, 31, began his pro baseball career in the Braves organization but has since played with five other organizations. He was a regular most of this year as Boston's starting shortstop, playing in 103 games before a back injury that will require surgery cut his season short.
He found out about the Duluth honor during the baseball season through a call from McCann.
"It's always nice for people to recognize you, especially as long as I've been gone (from Duluth High)," Green said. "It's great that they remember me and it's a nice honor for us and what we did for the program. It means a lot to us."
Green still keeps in touch with some of his high school coaches, specifically Lou Llerandi and Joe Marelle. McCann has done the same, and it's easier on him since he plays for the hometown franchise.
McCann, still just 25, has been voted an All-Star the past four seasons. A career .293 hitter, he became the first Brave ever to be an All-Star in his first three big-league seasons, a run he's extended to four. He also has won two Silver Slugger awards as the National League's best-hitting catcher.
His success has made him popular around Duluth, and Champitto is excited about the chance to honor McCann and Green, two of the school's most distinguished alumni.
"To be honest, I'm more excited about them coming out to this event and everyone getting to see them," Champitto said. "That way it won't be, 'Nick Green played here. Brian McCann played here.' It brings them that much closer to Duluth. That's the most exciting thing for me and I've gotten that feeling from the kids, too."