All-Star game becoming tradition for McCann

It is becoming an annual ritual to Brian McCann's midseason schedule at the end of the second weekend in July.

Instead of catching a flight home for a three-day vacation following Sunday's loss to the New York Mets, the Atlanta Braves catcher instead hit the road to participate in baseball's All-Star Game.

This time, the Duluth grad, finds himself in Anaheim, Calif., where he will represent the Braves for the fifth straight season as he and the rest of the National League All-Stars take on the American League stars tonight at 8:05 p.m. at Angel Stadium.

But while being named an All-Star in every one of his full seasons in the majors has become old hat, that doesn't mean the honor has become stale.

And there are some differences that should help keep this All-Star experience fresh for McCann.

For one thing, he will have plenty of company from his Atlanta teammates.

Three other Braves -- starting second baseman Martin Prado, right-handed pitcher Tim Hudson and utility man Omar Infante -- will join him in playing in the game, with another -- rookie outfielder Jason Heyward -- traveling to Anaheim but not playing in the game in order to rest a thumb injury.

It is the largest team contingent McCann has traveled with to the All-Star Game, and a change from last year's game, in which he was the Braves' only representative.

And with the Braves currently leading the National League East, the competitive aspect of the game comes into play.

With home field advantage going to the league that wins the game, a National League win could affect the Braves' postseason fate should they get there.

Plus, the National League is trying to end a 13-year winless streak against the American League, giving McCann and his teammates even more incentive.

In addition to wanting to break the National League's streak, McCann also has a personal goal in tonight's game as he is hitless in three at bats in his previous four All-Star appearances.

Whether or not he gets his first All-Star hit, history has indicated playing in the game usually leads to a strong second half of the season for McCann.

He has hit .290 with an average of 11 homers and 50 RBIs in the second half of each of the last four seasons that he's made an All-Star appearance.