New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, right, and new catcher Brian McCann pose during press conference at Yankees Stadium on Thursday Bronx, N.Y. (Photo: Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)
The pinstripes with the interlocking NY wasn’t the only new look for Brian McCann as he was introduced by the New York Yankees on Thursday in the Bronx.
On the back of McCann’s new uniform was No. 34 instead of the No. 16 he wore with the Atlanta Braves.
No. 16, worn by Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford, is one of 15 numbers retired by the Yankees, so the switch was necessary.
It also signaled, though, McCann’s complete break from the past after nine season with his hometown team.
In words that probably won’t sit well with some Braves fans, the Duluth graduate and Suwanee resident made his excitement about joining the Yankees clear during a press conference televised live by the YES Network.
“To say this one of the best days of my life would be an understatement,” he said.
McCann, who turns 30 before next season, received a five-year, $85 million free agent contract with a vesting sixth season that would push the deal to $100 million. The annual salary of $17 million is the richest ever for a free agent catcher.
That was far more than the Braves were willing to commit and it was almost a certainty that the 2013 season — his seventh as a National League all-star — would be his last in Atlanta.
“I knew it was pretty much done there,” McCann said of his time with the Braves.
McCann, who had his second child in September, will maintain his home in Gwinnett County, but he is now a high-paid New Yorker the rest of the year.
“Once I came up here and visited, it was a no-brainer,” said McCann, who also had interest from Boston and Texas.
“We think we have the next great Yankees catcher here with us and we are very excited,” said manager Joe Girardi, a former catcher with the team.
McCann’s wife Ashley, also a Duluth graduate, attended the press conference at Yankee Stadium, as did parents Howard and Sherry and older brother Brad.
Not only will McCann be wearing No. 34 from now on, but so will son Colt, 2, and baby daughter Colby. They were presented Yankees mini-outfits by general manager Brian Cashman at the start of the media event.
The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994 last season and have made a big splash in the offseason by signing McCann and agreeing to terms with Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, snatching him away from their rivals with a seven-year deal worth $153 million.
The Yankees still have to try to work out a deal to keep free agent second baseman Robinson Cano, though, and rebuild their pitching staff.
At least they are set behind the plate, a position where the Yankees have quite a legacy with names like Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson.
“I hope to fall in line with all the great catchers and continue to build and win championships,” McCann said. “I think that’s why I’m here. I’m going to be a piece of the puzzle that’s going to help this team win championships.”