Brian McCann goes to bat for cancer research with Rally Foundation

LAWRENCEVILLE — Where Brian McCann might end up as a free agent was on the minds of many of those who came to Coolray Field on Saturday to benefit the Rally Foundation for childhood cancer research.

For McCann, though, it was a time to put aside where he might be playing in the future for a cause that is so dear to himself and wife Ashley, also a Duluth graduate.

“Today’s all about the kids,” the seven-time all-star catcher said.

McCann slugged a homer his first time up in the celebrity softball game, but the biggest cheer of the day came when he helped a young cancer patient swing the bat and then carried the child around the bases.

It was the sixth year for the event and the third time it was held at the home of the Gwinnett Braves. The temperature was on the cool side and clouds dominated the skies, but that didn’t damper spirits.

“It keeps getting bigger and better each year,” McCann said of the event. “We’re raising awareness for a great cause.”

The McCanns welcomed a son, Colt, in 2012 and a daughter, Colby, in September. That has made the Rally Foundation even more important to them.

“Now that we have kids we get that feeling of what some of these parents must go through,” McCann said. “It’s touching to feel connected with these kids and these parents.”

Atlanta Braves teammates Freddie Freeman and Kris Medlen joined McCann at the Rally Foundation event and took part in the softball game. Joining them were New York Mets rookie pitcher Zach Wheeler and top Braves prospect Lucas Sims, as well numerous former players and athletes in other sports.

“I’m excited and a little nervous,” said Sims, Atlanta’s first-round draft choice out of Brookwood in 2012. “This is my first time here and it should be a lot of fun.”

“When you become a parent, you realize even more how important an event like this is,” said Medlen, who has a young son.

The Wells family drove over from Spartanburg, S.C., for the event. Obvious Braves fans, they have a three-year-old named Maddux and a two-year-old named Hudson. But Hudson wore a little Braves jersey with McCann’s name and No. 16 on the back, showing who really was his favorite player.

The Wells’ mission was to support McCann as well as the Rally Foundation.

“It’s the nature of the business,” father William Wells said of McCann’s free agency. “We hope he stays with the Braves, but I know he might be better off with an American League team where he could be the designated hitter as well as catch.”

Greyson Curley, 13, is also a McCann and Braves fan. But he is a fan of the Rally Foundation as well and that was also why he was at Coolray Field.

“Two kids at my school have had cancer,” said Curley, who goes to Lost Mountain Middle in Cobb County. “I understand what this means for a lot of families.”

The McCanns are trying to grow the awareness of childhood cancer while bringing hope to those impacted.

“We’ll always keep our name on this event for sure,” McCann said.