All-starter: McCann gets first fans' nod in 6th All-Star Game

The Associated Press 
Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann smiles during a game earlier this season. The catcher will appear in his sixth All-Star Game this year and his first as a starter.

The Associated Press Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann smiles during a game earlier this season. The catcher will appear in his sixth All-Star Game this year and his first as a starter.

ATLANTA -- Brian McCann's sixth All-Star Game in as many full seasons with the Braves will definitely be special and not only because the catcher will be a National League starter for the first time.

Joining the Gwinnett County product in Phoenix will be his older brother Brad, also a former Duluth High School standout.

"It's the first time he's got to go to the All-Star Game and it will be great to share it with him," McCann said. "It will be really nice to have him there. We're really close."

In fact, so close that McCann credits some brotherly advice for turning around his season and producing a year that could end up being worthy of a National League Most Valuable Player award.

"We talk all the time and one day he really got on me," the younger brother said of a mid-May conversation. "I've been seeing the ball well all season, but I hadn't been hitting with any power. He said, 'What are you doing with only three extra-base hits?'"

The former minor leaguer and Clemson standout, who now works with father Howie at their Windward Baseball Academy, thought he had the answer for the power outage. The younger brother listened and the results were instant.

Scheduled to get a day off against Houston on May 17 at Turner Field, McCann belted a pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning to tie the game and then won it with another blast in the 11th inning. The light switch had been flicked.

No longer was the left-handed hitter tying himself up on his swing. As a result, the ball began flying off his bat.

In a 27-game stretch through Sunday, McCann was batting .360 with 10 homers and 22 RBIs.

"It was a minor thing, but it made all the difference," McCann said of his brother's tip.

Overall, McCann went into Monday night's game with Colorado batting .314 with 14 doubles, 14 homers and 47 RBIs. His on-base percentage was .388 thanks to 33 walks compared to 43 strikeouts and he was slugging .520.

That's why there has begun to be talk about the 27-year-old being a potential MVP candidate.

"He's carried us," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "He deserves votes for MVP. He deserves a lot of votes."

"It's a tough position to put those offensive numbers up," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of his slugging catcher. "I think he's having a MVP season right now. I really do. I don't know how you could improve on what he's doing. I just hope he can keep it up year after year."

McCann was a MVP last season -- of the All-Star Game. He came off the bench for starter Yadier Molina of St. Louis and hit a game-winning three-run double for the National League while catching the final six innings in Anaheim.

This year, McCann will start the game rather than finish it.

"I didn't realize he hadn't started before," Gonzalez said. "That's hard to believe as good as he's been."

McCann beat out Molina this year by 1,726,052 votes in the fan balloting.

"It's an honor," McCann said.

"I've been five times and been a reserve. Now to get recognized by the fans to start is definitely special. You always want to shoot to start the game. Now I finally have a chance to do that."

When McCann is announced with the starters on July 12 at Arizona's Chase Field, older brother Brad will be part of a large contingent of family members at the game.

"It will mean a lot to me to have him there for the first time," McCann said. "When I first starting making the All-Star Game, he was still playing. Then he missed the last few.

"I'm really looking forward to sharing it with him. I'm very fortunate to come from a baseball family. I would be the player I am without my dad and my brother."

If McCann were to win National League MVP honors this year, maybe he owes his brother more than just an All-Star Game trip.

A little batting tip is paying off in a big, big way.