07/15/09 1:08 AM ET
McCann truly in awe of All-Star experience
Braves catcher says St. Louis trip better than previous three
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Still, while provided just one late-inning at-bat against yet another dominant closer during the 4-3 loss he and his National League teammates suffered against the American League at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, McCann exited with the feeling that he'd again been provided a special honor.
"You can't be depressed with this experience," McCann said. "We lost the game, and we're upset that we did that. But at the same time, you take a step back and know that you're getting rewarded for your first half and you get to share the locker room with the best players in the game."
During each of his four consecutive All-Star Game appearances, McCann has been on the wrong end of a one-run affair captured by the Junior Circuit, which has gone unbeaten over the course of the past 13 years.
"The last four years, it's been a one-run game every single time," McCann said. "It could have gone either way every time. Unfortunately, for however long it's been, it hasn't gone our way."
Provided the at-bat he didn't receive when he played just the final half-inning of last year's 15-inning loss at Yankee Stadium, McCann found himself up against Twins closer Joe Nathan in the eighth inning on Tuesday. On a 2-1 fastball, he hit a popup that Indians catcher Victor Martinez gloved in foul territory.
"I got a pitch to hit, and that's all you can ask for against a closer like that," McCann said. "The rest was my fault. I popped it up instead of driving it."
McCann is now hitless in three career All-Star at-bats, which have all come against top-notch closers. He also proved unsuccessful in 2006 against the then-effective B.J. Ryan and in 2007 against J.J. Putz.
"You face guys like that and you face closers, and they're here for a reason," McCann said.
Always humble and respectful, McCann wasn't willing to manifest the feelings expressed on his face when he was asked if he was upset that he wasn't inserted into the 80th Midsummer Classic until the bottom of the eighth inning.
Instead, he said that it was nice for the St. Louis fans to have the opportunity to watch Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina deliver an RBI single off Roy Halladay during the NL's three-run second inning and catch each of the first eight innings.
"I'm just happy to be here," McCann said. "For me, it's just an honor to be here."
McCann once again shared the experience with his parents, who watched with great pride on Tuesday afternoon when his car rolled by during the Major League Baseball Red Carpet Parade presented by Chevy.
"The parade is still the best for me," Howie McCann said. "To see him out there with [Derek] Jeter and Mariano [Rivera] and all of those guys is just great."
Provided the opportunity to spend a few days with Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Mets third baseman David Wright and some of the game's rising stars, McCann felt that this All-Star experience proved to be even more enjoyable than his previous three.
"I'd have to say it's the friendships that makes it a lot more fun to be here," McCann said. "I've been playing against these guys for a while now, and this is my fourth year here. It's a lot different than those first two years when I was kind of just sitting in a corner and watching everybody."
Still, McCann felt somewhat uncomfortable about the reality that he was the only Braves representative. He felt starters Javier Vazquez and Jair Jurrjens and reliever Rafael Soriano had done enough to join him in St. Louis.
"It stinks, because I felt like we had four or five guys that were deserving, and here I am being the only guy that's here," McCann said. "To me, we've had the best pitching in baseball. So it's tough to be here by yourself, because the guys back in that clubhouse deserve to be here."
While posting the Senior Circuit's fifth-best ERA during the first half of the season, the Braves proved that they have a solid pitching staff. But they'll still enter the season's second half six games back of the Phillies in the NL East and two games below .500.
Always the optimist, McCann believes that the Braves are capable of producing a strong second-half run.
"This is the most excited I've been to play a half of baseball, because I think our best is ahead of us," McCann said. "We ended the first half playing well."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.