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McCann soaks up All-Star ambience

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 07/12/06

Pittsburgh — His bad left ankle freshly taped, Brian McCann made his way to his locker — Andruw Jones literally carried him piggyback part of the way — when a clubhouse attendant handed him a jersey — Edgar Renteria's, in fact — and asked him to sign it.

McCann's eyes widened.

CHARLES KRUPA / Associated Press
Braves catcher Brian McCann has the look of a guy who could get used to life as a major league All-Star.

CHARLES KRUPA / Associated Press
Being surrounded by many of the game's legends and luminaries can be intimidating to a second-year player in his first All-Star game. Just ask the Braves' Brian McCann.

"Would you do that for me?" he asked about also getting his All-Star teammates to autograph his jersey.

"Front or back?" the kid asked.

"Back," said the Braves' 22-year-old catcher, who was catching on quickly to this All-Star business.

It was still mid-afternoon Tuesday. Lockering next to Paul Lo Duca, two cubicles down from Albert Pujols, McCann paused as he dressed to consider two of the most unusual days of his life. He was being recognized on the streets of Pittsburgh. Playing most of the last two months on one healthy leg, he is being celebrated as one of baseball's best players. He was surrounded by the game's biggest names.

Would they do that for him?

"It just all hit me [Monday]," he said. "It's unbelievable. I never dreamed about being in an All-Star game. It's all happening so fast. I'm trying to take it all in."

Lo Duca, playing in his fourth All-Star game but starting in his first, recognized the symptoms.

"The first one is always overwhelming," the New York Mets catcher said. "But he'll be back a lot more times. The first one, you're just in awe."

Earlier in the day, McCann spent time with his parents, Howard and Sherry, who made the trip from Duluth. His baseball day began around 3 p.m., when he joined a players' motorcade that wended its way downtown and across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and then to PNC Park. If it all seemed too much and too soon, Jones begged to differ.

"I knew he could hit," said Jones, a five-time All-Star. "And he improved so much in such a short time, it was great."

The game was still hours away. Before the sun came up today, he would be back at his home, returning with Jones and Renteria on a private jet, chartered by Jones. But for now, the youngest player in the 2006 All-Star game tried to survey his clubhouse without gawking. It was hard.

"This is why the All-Star game is so special," McCann said, glancing down at Pujols. "Just to be here with all the greatest hitters in baseball. I'll be able to tell my kids I played with him ... for a few days."

The Braves' season picks up again in San Diego on Friday. McCann should have returned to earth by then. Maybe.